After a huge win over Huddersfield and an electric Almiron debut to go with it, it’s fair to say us Newcastle fans will be walking up to St James’ Park with a real spring in our step ahead of this one.
With players on from, our system starting to work a treat, confidence high and some real flowing football on show over the weekend, there’ll be genuine belief that we can see off Burnley and take another big step towards survival – but we can’t afford to take our foot of the gas.
It would just take a defeat and wins for Cardiff (who play at home to an out of sorts Everton) and Southampton (at home to Fulham) and we’d suddenly look in deep trouble once again; so this really is another huge opportunity to push towards that 40 point mark.
I’m confident – and rightly so based on what we saw on Saturday and the fact it was a stroll in the park playing against 10 men for 70 minutes – but Burnley are in great form and have been VERY hard to beat of late.
Aside from an FA Cup hammering at Man City, they’ve drawn 3 and won 6 of their last 10, beating Spurs over the weekend, getting a point at Man City and winning convincingly at Brighton in 3 of their last 4.
Take our foot off the gas and we may come away frustrated from this one.
Hayden and Longstaff deserve to keep their spots in the side, but with this one coming just 72 hours after the Huddersfield win, combined with the fact we have Shelvey, Ki and Diame all waiting for game time, Rafa *MIGHT* just rotate a little.
Aside from a potential change in midfield, I’d be surprised to see Rafa change things up much – even though the likes of Dummett, Fernandez and Atsu may also feel hard done by to miss out again.
Preferred NUFC XI – (3-4–2-1) – Dubravka– Schar, Lascelles, Lejeune – Yedlin, Longstaff, Hayden, Ritchie – Perez, Almiron – Rondon.
Here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in the Burnley side:
Ashley Barnes – An old fashioned centre-forward who’s brilliant with his back to goal, strong in the air and a real handful. Lascelles struggled with his power in this game last season, so he, Schar and Lejeune will have to stand up to the physical test coming their way.
Tom Heaton – Burnley have played 8, won 5 and drawn 3 since he returned, with him appearing to give what was a leaky back four real confidence in recent weeks. He was outstanding in their 2-1 win over Spurs on Saturday and is a fantastic shot stopper, so we can’t afford to waste the chances we did against Huddersfield if we plan to beat Burnley here.
Phil Bardsley – I fully expect Almiron to tear him to shreds, but I’m wary of how dirty and rough Bardsley could be. Let’s hope our £21m man doesn’t come away from this one crocked!
Predicted Burnley XI – (4-4-2) – Heaton – Bardsley, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor – Hendrick, Cork, Westwood, McNeil – Barnes, Wood.
Benitez has confirmed once again that Clark and Elliot will be the only two players missing, but it remains to be seen whether Rafa rotates and hands chances to the likes of Shelvey, Diame, Ki, Fernandez or Dummett.
For Burnley, Robbie Brady and Johann Berg Gudmundsson remain out, but they have no fresh injury issues after a 2-1 win over Spurs on Saturday.
Regardless of the fact we played against 10 men for the majority of Saturday’s game, there were huge positives on display all over the pitch, with us finally looking like a well balanced side with quality in all areas; but take Burnley lightly and we’ll be left frustrated.
They’ve not been beaten in the League since Christmas and are back looking like the side that finished 7th last season.
I’m hoping we can make it a fourth straight league win at St James’ Park, with my heart saying a 2-1 win, but my head’s wondering if we’ll find this one tough and be forced to settle for a point.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-1 Burnley
Howay the lads!