Leicester bid to turn screw on slumping Newcastle
A hair's breadth separated Leicester City and Newcastle United at the end of the relegation battle last season but a 36-point chasm and a gulf in confidence exists between the sides ahead of Monday's Premier League clash.
With Leicester's title challenge showing no sign of wilting as the inevitable pressure of the run-in continues to mount, Newcastle's season is seemingly skidding towards the abyss.
It is by no means certain that Newcastle manager Steve McClaren will still be in the dugout for the game at Leicester's King Power Stadium with his immediate future up in the air.
A scheduled meeting with managing director Lee Charnley did not take place on Wednesday, according to media reports, with former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez strongly linked to the role should the club decide to end McClaren's stay at St James' Park.
Despite spending heavily in the transfer window, Newcastle are 19th in the table having been in the bottom three for 146 days this season.
On paper they should be little more than cannon fodder for Claudio Ranieri's Leicester, who have won five of the last seven to open a five-point lead at the summit as their more-fancied rivals have all stumbled.
They came through a testing February when they played Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal and now need only to keep their heads over the final nine games to claim one of the most remarkable title triumphs in English football history.
Spurs, who face a testing trip to Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League on Thursday, need to get back to winning ways swiftly if they are to maintain their pursuit, having taken just one point from their last two games.
It is a similar story for Manchester City, whose fading title hopes probably could not survive a defeat at Norwich City on Saturday.
City bounced back from a 3-0 defeat by Liverpool with a thumping 4-0 victory over Villa, but still trail Leicester by 10 points, although they do have a game in hand.
Third-placed Arsenal, whose challenge has fallen away in recent weeks after three games without a victory, are likely to drop further behind as they play Watford in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.