Sheffield United continued their surprising run at Europe at the weekend with a comeback win over Bournemouth.
Billy Sharp and John Lundstram fired in the goals to send United fifth. The win leaves the Blades just two points shy of a Champions League spot. Talk, then, is now becoming very serious in terms of landing a top-four place.
Of course, for many United fans, it still remains a pipe dream. Staying up was always going to be the main aim of most supporters. Indeed, Chris Wilder would have probably taken 17th with both hands if offered it at the start of the campaign.
But having already amassed 39 points and seemingly safe of any sort of relegation trouble, just what would United need to do, historically, to cement a top-four spot?
A big task still lies ahead
Finishing fourth is no mean feat. In fact, last season saw Spurs snatch fourth with 71 points. That would mean the Blades winning eleven of their last 12 games. Realistically, that’s not going to happen.
In fact, the two seasons prior to that would have required even more points. 75 and 76 were the marker for the 2017 and 2018 campaigns. Both totals are already out of reach for the Blades.
You have to go back to the 15/16 season for a total lower than 70 to be good enough. Manchester City were the benefactors that year as they pipped others to the post with 66 points. Before that, it was 2011/12 when below 70 would secure fourth. Spurs, this time taking the honours after amassing 69 points.
Essentially, then, in just two of the last ten seasons, below 70 points would be good enough for the top four. As mentioned, it seems highly unrealistic to suggest United will win ten or eleven of their remaining games.
On the other hand, this is a strange season in itself. Apart from Liverpool, nobody is really putting together hugely consistent runs. It’s almost like the Championship syndrome of ‘anyone can beat anyone else on their day’ has taken over the top-flight.
Chris Wilder will just want his team to keep plodding along. Around the 60 point mark is normally good enough for Europa League qualification. With home games to come against Brighton, Norwich, Chelsea, and Spurs, Blades fans might just fancy their chances.