I just can’t see why Rafa would change things from the sides that beat Man Utd 1-0 and Southampton 3-0 in our last two outings at St James’. This team picks itself at the moment:
Benitez may have confirmed that Slimani will be in the squad tomorrow, but he’ll have to settle for a place on the bench. There’s no way he’ll be kicking Gayle out the starting 11 just yet given his lack of match fitness and Dwight’s recent return to form (2 goals and 2 assists in 4 games and looking much more lively).
Ritchie and Kenedy have been highly influential in recent weeks so Atsu and Murphy will have to wait for their chance once again, as will Clark and Merino, with the central partnerships of Lascelles and Lejeune and Diame and Shelvey being formidable recently.
The one player we’ll need a little more from is Ayoze Perez. I can rarely knock the shift he puts in between midfield and attack, but his output must improve. Too often does he lose it or fail to capitalise on promising positions he finds himself in.
Predicted NUFC XI – (4-2-3-1) – Dubravka– Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett – Diame, Shelvey – Ritchie, Perez, Kenedy – Gayle
Here’s a few players to watch out for tomorrow’s visitors:
Steve Mounie – With 6 Premier League goals to his name this season, he’ll be the highest scoring player on the pitch tomorrow. He’s a powerful striker and a real danger in the air, with several of his six goals so far this season coming from his head.
Aaron Mooy – Some say he’s not been at his best recently, but he’s so often been the best player for them whenever I’ve watched them this season. He’ll look to set the tempo for them and get on the ball as often as possible. He got the winner at the John Smith’s earlier in the season and was their best player when they beat us at St James’ last season, so he’s one to watch (providing he is passed fit).
Rajiv van La Parra – I’ve seen a few Huddersfield fans say he needs to up his game (so he may not even start), but he loves to run at his man and has shown he’s capable of pulling something out of the bag from nothing.
Christopher Schindler – Their best defender and one to watch from set pieces, with him often trying to pull defenders out to create room in the six-yard box (we’ll see evidence of this on Saturday no doubt).
Predicted Huddersfield XI – (4-2-3-1) – Lossl – Hadergjonaj, Jorgensen, Schindler, Kongolo – Hogg, Mooy – Quaner – Pritchard, Val La Parra – Mounie.
For an inside look into this weekend’s opponents, take a look at the latest edition of the ‘Opposition Opinion’ . A great insight into this weekend’s opponents.
Newcastle – 13th (32 pts) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 2 / Drawn: 2 / Lost: 1
Huddersfield – 15th ( 31 pts) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 2 / Drawn: 1 / Lost: 2
Benitez has confirmed that Islam Slimani will be in the squad, meaning the Algerian could well make his NUFC debut from the bench.
Matt Ritchie has been passed fit despite pulling out of the Scotland squad with a groin complaint, however Joselu will miss out with an ankle problem.
For Huddersfield, it sounds like midfield duo Aaron Mooy and Philip Billing could actually start despite returning from international duty this week.
Impressive Monaco loanee Terence Kongolo also looks like he’ll be back from a hip injury despite fears that he’d also miss out, so they look set to be handed a few fitness boosts before tomorrow’s game.
As stated earlier, I’m expecting this to be a much more fiercely contested tie than our 3-0 win over Southampton turned out to be three weeks ago.
They’ll press us high and look to unsettle Shelvey, Diame and our back four, but with that they’ll also leave space in behind if we can bypass their midfield/high press.
I don’t see us keeping a clean sheet this time around as I fully expect them to set up to win, but they’re a team who can ship goals, so we may have some joy if Kenedy, Shelvey, Ritchie and Gayle can combine well again.
A part of me doubts whether we’ll be able to make it three home wins on the spin, but then again, Benitez teams tend to come good at the end of the season. His record in the last 10 games of seasons is quite incredible.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-1 Huddersfield
Howay the lads!