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Apr 17, 2014

Playing for safety

The minimum Swansea need from their last four games to be virtually sure of safety is probably only three points. That's one win, which will ideally come before the visit to Sunderland on the last day of the season. Three more points give Swansea 36, and while that total would normally be relegation-worthy [40 is seen as the number required to stay up], this season it looks to be enough for safety.

Assuming Swansea find one win from their remaining four games, drop-zone incumbents Cardiff would then need seven points from theirs to go level with them. Norwich would need four points from four games [with a horrible run-in], while Sunderland would need 10 from five. Three of Sunderland's final five games are against Cardiff, West Brom and Swansea, so something has to give.

The Felix Magath effect looks as though it might be enough to pull Fulham free of the mire -- they'd need two wins from four games to hit 36 points, and they have a soft enough schedule to let them do it. West Brom are already even with Swansea on points, with Swansea's far superior goal difference keeping the Swans on top (-5 to -11).

Keeping pace with the Baggies seems like a good target for Swansea for the rest of their season -- after all, Swansea and West Brom have finished next to each other in each of Swansea's Premier League seasons to date -- 10th and 11th two seasons ago, then eighth and ninth last season.

What all these projections should prove is that if the Swans feel vulnerable, they can take comfort in the fact the clubs below them generally have a lot more to do. Cardiff, Sunderland and Norwich seem doomed, but if just one of those clubs should survive, it will likely be at the expense of either West Brom, Fulham or Swansea. For that reason, the Swans should target West Brom and Fulham's results as the mark they need to beat.

Of course, as things stand, Swansea have one big advantage (beyond their goal difference) -- if they win all their remaining games, they'll definitely be safe. That task starts Saturday with a trip to Newcastle, where the Swans have never lost in a Premier League game.

In fact, the five previous meetings between the sides have ended in three Swansea wins, one draw and one Newcastle win, with the Welsh side winning the last three in a row. Newcastle have almost nothing to play for, being safe from both relegation and European qualification, although Alan Pardew might feel a good run-in would boost his job security.

Newcastle might have Loic Remy back to lead the line, and while Swansea will probably be without Michu once again, they'll also be without Chico Flores, which is at least as much of a good thing as it is bad. Chico's tendency to momentarily lose his head and throw in a rash tackle, take a spectacular dive or pull himself out of position with a rush up the field, have been costly for Swansea this season -- he's only missing this game because he was sent off after just 15 minutes of the last against Chelsea.

His replacement, Jordi Amat, seems like a far safer option with so much on the line. Amat's lack of Chico-esque exuberance shouldn't be confused with a lack of presence or ability. The highly regarded young Spaniard is every bit the ball player of his countryman, but with far more discipline, and he's stronger in the tackle, too.

Swansea's defence then should look a little bit sturdier on Saturday, which is a good thing whether or not Remy is fit to play. With Newcastle poor of late, and recent history between these two clubs very much favouring Swansea, Garry Monk ought to be planning for three points on Saturday and the chance to breathe a small sigh of relief on Sunday.