Hull must ride home form for huge Watford win to boost survival hopes
Results at the KCOM Stadium in 2017 are the sole reason Hull City are still alive in the fight against relegation to the Championship. Five wins and one draw have banked 16 points from the 18 up for grabs since the turn of the year, amounting to over half of the Tigers' haul for the entire season.
It is a quite remarkable record for a team fighting against relegation, papering over the wide cracks of an away run that's seen just one point collected from the past 15 games staged outside of East Yorkshire. Now, City must hope it holds firm.
This weekend brings Watford to the KCOM Stadium and a fortnight later it's Sunderland. Taking six points from those two inviting fixtures will not guarantee another year in the Premier League, but it will take the Tigers mighty close.
Despite the fact that there's a trip to Southampton and another to Crystal Palace still to come before the season concludes with the visit of title-chasing Tottenham, these next two home matches will be ringed on Marco Silva's calendar. They will surely decide whether City are still a top-flight club in August.
Beating Watford on Saturday would be enormous. The Tigers would be at least two points clear of danger with a fourth straight home win, but the gap could widen to four or five points if 18th-placed Swansea cannot find their own much-needed win at home to Stoke City. It could be a season-defining afternoon.
Supporters will anxiously await news from the Liberty Stadium, but all Silva and his side can focus on is getting their own job done against Watford. The Hornets, you suspect, will not be brushed aside as easily as Middlesbrough were in City's previous home game. They have been dogged opponents under Walter Mazzarri and are targeting a top-half finish after winning three of their past four.
Watford won't be making up the numbers, but City have developed a reassuring sense of self-belief at the KCOM Stadium. Under Silva, a manager who last lost a home league game in 2014, they turn up expecting to beat all comers. Liverpool found that out in February when out-fought and beaten 2-0.
The pressure will be on City, but they have been here before. Against Bournemouth in January, Swansea in March and West Ham at the start of this month, City simply had to win. Staying in touch depended on it. And they delivered.
Two of those games were also triumphs through adversity. The wins over Bournemouth and West Ham both saw the Tigers come from behind, a trick that was repeated against Middlesbrough. That might suggest City have been sloppy starters, but it also makes it clear they will not wilt under pressure.
Who will win?
Can the same be said of Swansea? There is no definitive answer just yet, but City's biggest rivals in this relegation battle have fallen short in recent weeks. Swansea have taken just one point from their past six games and that was in a wholly unsatisfactory 0-0 draw at home to Middlesbrough.
The Tigers, meanwhile, appear to be coping well under Silva, a quiet figure who has looked unflappable since arriving in the Premier League four months ago. Although the defeats away to Manchester City and Stoke City were deserved, they've regularly held their nerve when it's really mattered.
And boy does this weekend matter. A draw would not be a disaster if Swansea were also to drop points, but City have to look for one of the two wins needed to give the Swans a huge task to survive. A chance to strangle Swansea's belief has to be grabbed with both hands. Imagine the deflation felt by Paul Clement's side if they leave the pitch to learn of a Hull City win on Saturday.
The Tigers have been reliant on their rivals' stumbles to stay out of the relegation places on the past two weekends, but there is an opportunity to turn the screw here. Climbing up to 33 points this weekend would be hugely significant, especially if Swansea were to come up short.
Anything but a home win could yet see City dragged into the bottom three, but that is an eventuality that no one wants to consider. Silva's outstanding home record ensures another victory at the KCOM Stadium is the only thing on supporters' minds.
Philip Buckingham is ESPN FC's Hull City blogger. Follow him on Twitter: @PJBuckingham.