Thirteen games. Thirteen games in which to cobble together enough wins and draws to make it to 36 points. Even then it may not be enough.
I plucked out 36 points because, despite 40 being seen as the magic number, since the turn of the century the average number needed to guarantee survival and without having to rely on a better goal difference is 35.64.
Having said that, teams finishing with 36 points have been relegated in eight of the last 22 seasons. So while finishing on 36 points gives us a better-than-average chance of survival, it’s no magic number.
But for the purposes of this exercise, I’ll run with it and that means that City have to earn 19 points from those remaining 13 games – a huge ask given that they’ve managed just 17 from their first 25 games.
Five wins and four draws… how does that sound?
But we have to believe it’s possible, otherwise what’s the point. Until our fate is mathematically sealed, every game has to be seen as an opportunity to eat away at my fictitious 19-point target – starting with Southampton (a).
And despite the Saints being a solid, mid-table outfit who are free of any relegation angst, it is a game City head into knowing that there are points to be had.
Dean Smith’s Carrow Road bow was, of course, against Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men and yielded three points, so there is not one of those – like against Man City and Liverpool – where there’s only a small sliver of hope and very little expectation.
A good side they may, but they’re a team that’s beatable.
I don’t however suggest we look too closely at their recent form, especially the away win at Tottenham, the away draws at Old Trafford and the Etihad and, for that matter, the comfortable home wins over Brentford and Everton.
Let’s focus instead on their 3-1 away defeat at Molineux and the …. erm … well, just the away defeat at Molineux.
Told you they were beatable.
Hasenhüttl was however annoying chipper at the Thursday morning presser, during which he confirmed that French left-back Romain Perraud is back and available for selection for tomorrow night.
“So far we’re looking good,” admitted the Austrian. “Romain is back after his Covid case. So we only have Lyanco, Nathan Tella and Alex McCarthy still out but the rest are training with the group.
“I have a big squad that I can select the best possible 11 from.”
That means we face Ralph’s finest: Ward-Prowse, Elyounoussi, Adams, Broja and co. And if he chooses he can name an unchanged XI after his men easily dispatched the supposedly reborn Toffees who, of course, are now managed by the son of God.
Alas, he wasn’t able to help them much at St Mary’s last Saturday.
For City, Dean Smith unfortunaely had to report ‘not great news’ with regard to the unlucky Andrew Omobamidele, who is out for the ‘near future’, but on a brighter note it looks as if Tim Krul is in with a genuine shout for tomorrow night. Angus, in difficult circumstances, has done very well, but Krul is Krul and we need him for the scraps upcoming.
Otherwise, it looks almost certain to be the team that performed so admirably at Anfield for an hour. As Smith said, a performance of that ilk for the full 90 tomorrow night and we have a chance.
Football, as we well know, doesn’t work like that though and it will be a different challenge and different questions will be asked of Smith’s chosen XI.
Whether we’re good enough to answer those questions, one of which is how do we manage the threat of Ward-Prowse?, will determine whether we can match or even gain ground on those teams around us.
One thing we have learned over the last few days is that we can’t rely on others to help us in this most unenviable of battles (cheers Spurs). If any unlikely survival is to be achieved, we’re going to have to do it our way and under our own steam.
Please let it begin at St Mary’s.