Norwich City travel to Southampton on Saturday knowing their next five games could well hold the key to securing Premier League survival.
Chris Hughton's team sit four points clear of the bottom three with nine fixtures still to play this season.
After facing a Southampton side that ended a three-match losing sequence in all competitions with a 1-0 triumph at Crystal Palace last time out, Norwich will take on Sunderland, Swansea City, West Brom and Fulham.
Of that quartet, only Swansea sit above Norwich in the league at present, on goal difference alone.
Conversely, Norwich's final four league games all come against teams currently occupying places in the top six, making the need to get points on the board sooner rather than later appear particularly pressing.
Although the Carrow Road club were able to put a chastening 4-1 loss at Aston Villa behind them last time out, a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke City certainly carried the air of a missed opportunity.
Bradley Johnson handed Norwich a second-half lead and they played the final 12 minutes against 10 men after Jon Walters, who levelled for Stoke from the penalty spot, was sent off for a reckless challenge on Alexander Tettey.
While Norwich are one of several teams facing a battle to preserve their top-flight status, Southampton would seem to have little to worry about heading into the closing weeks of the season.
Mauricio Pochettino's men were beaten 1-0 at home by Norwich in August, with Nathan Redmond the man on target.
Yet that proved to be the only defeat Southampton suffered in their opening 11 Premier League games, prompting talk of potential European qualification.
While that task now appears beyond Southampton, the club remains handily placed in ninth position on 42 points, some 11 points clear of West Ham, the team immediately below them.
It is a mark of Southampton's progress this term that Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Luke Shaw have all made their England debuts.
Each of those four will be keen to use their club's remaining matches to battle for a place in Roy Hodgson's FIFA World Cup squad, while Pochettino will no doubt be eager to ensure Southampton retain the intensity that has served them so well throughout the campaign.
Southampton, who appointed a new chairman this week in Ralph Krueger, face a tricky run of fixtures after facing Norwich, with Tottenham, Newcastle United and Manchester City their next opponents.
|Coach: M. Pochettino|
for A. Lallana 56'
for G. Ramírez 61'
for J. Rodriguez 90+3'
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