Rafa Benitez is clinging on to the hope that Newcastle United can get a lucky break – after a run of bad luck.
The Magpies are facing a potentially-catastrophic second relegation in seven years after Saturday’s goalless draw against Aston Villa.
Newcastle’s result at Villa Park – and Sunderland’s dramatic win over Chelsea – mean Benitez’s side could be relegated on Wednesday night without kicking a ball.
Benitez conceded his team – who end their campaign with a home game against Tottenham on Sunday – was nowhere near its best against basement club Villa, who had lost their previous 11 games.
But he feels that the Tynesiders have been “unlucky” during his nine-game tenure.
“You don’t always finish where you deserve to be,” said manager Benitez.
“Sometimes, you are unlucky, and I think that has been the case with us during my time here. We have been unlucky.
“We had a clear chance against (Manchester) City in the last five minutes, and conceded a goal in the last minute against Norwich, so thing could have been different.
“But we cannot change things now. The only thing we can do is make sure that if we have an opportunity against Tottenham, we are ready to take it.”
Newcastle’s only hope is that Sunderland fail to win both their final games against Everton and Watford.
“We cannot control what they will do,” said Benitez.
“We had to win (against Villa), but we weren’t able to do that. We drew and they won, so that is why we find ourselves in a bad position.
“The only thing we can do is make sure that if we are in a position where we are playing against Tottenham with a chance to stay up, we are ready to win.”
Sunderland take on Everton at the Stadium of Light in midweek in what is their game in hand.
Benitez is likely to watch the game with his staff, though he is not sure many of his players will sit through a fixture which is expected to confirm United’s fate.
“I might watch it, to be honest,” said Benitez.
“Maybe I will try to enjoy it with my staff, and then prepare the training session for the day after.
“I won’t be telling the players what to do. Each one is different, so it is up to them.”
Newcastle were awful before the break at Villa Park and only marginally better in the second half, when Jack Colback, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Georginio Wijnaldum had chances to take all three points.
Benitez felt nerves were a problem in the game.
“I think that we didn’t play well, maybe because we had too much anxiety,” he said.
“The players were tense, and we couldn’t do what we wanted.
“There was a better reaction in the second half, and the team was creating some chances, and at least we were getting close to the box and pushing and pushing.
“But when you have so many people defending behind the ball, you cannot find a clear chance. You need to score, but they know that on the counter-attack they can be dangerous.
“In that situation, you have to be very precise, and when you give the ball away, you lose confidence and it becomes quite difficult.
“And when you are under pressure, you make more mistakes.”
Meanwhile, Benitez says he won’t consider his future until after Newcastle’s fate is sealed
Aston Villa: Bunn, Bacuna, Lescott, Clark, Hutton, Westwood, Sanchez, Gana, Toner, Ayew, Sinclair (Hepburn-Murphy 90). Subs not used: Guzan, Richards, Traore, Gil, Lyden, Grealish. Booked: Clark.
Newcastle: Darlow, Anita, Mbemba, Lascelles, Dummett, Tiote (Perez 68), Colback (De Jong 90), Townsend, Sissoko, Wijnaldum, Cisse (Mitrovic 52). Subs not used: Shelvey, Janmaat, Taylor, Woodman. Booked: Dummett.
Att: 33,055. Ref: Robert Madley (West Yorkshire).