A week after securing our Premier League status for another season, we now face a desperate Brighton side just three points clear of the drop zone.
Off-field matters will no doubt take centre-stage now we’re safe, but you’d like to think we can now play with the shackles off and enjoy our final three games of the season.
Chris Hughton’s side have been woeful of late. A 0-0 draw at Wolves followed by a narrow 1-0 defeat at Spurs has steadied the ship slightly, but they’ve failed to score in any of their last SEVEN games and have been far from solid at the Amex.
We’ve often been conservative this season, focusing on a clean sheet at one end and the nicking a goal at the other, however you’d hope we’d have a go here and try to get at Brighton from the off.
After all, Brighton arrive off the back of a 0-2 defeat to relegation rivals Cardiff and a 0-5 thumping at the hands of Bournemouth, so we should be looking to take full advantage of what could be a nervy Amex Stadium.
With Lascelles (stomach illness) and Almiron (hamstring) ruled out, there’ll definitely be two changes.
Federico Fernandez will almost certainly come in for the injured Lascelles – and rightly so given how unfortunate he’s been to miss out on Rafa’s starting 11’s over the second half of the season.
With regards to Almiron’s replacement, I’d love to see Muto start, but Rafa has been talking up Christian Atsu recently, so I can see him coming in.
Diame MUST start two of our last three games if he’s to activate a new one-year extension, so he’ll be pushing for a start – as will both Shelvey and Yedlin.
Preferred NUFC XI – (3-4-2-1) – Dubravka – Schar, Fernandez, Dummett – Manquillo, Hayden, Ki, Ritchie – Perez, Muto – Rondon.
Here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in Chris Hughton’s side:
Glenn Murray – He’s not actually played a great deal of late, but the striker is by far their biggest goal threat, scoring an impressive 11 goals in the Premier League this season. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s recalled for this one, with them in desperate need of a goal after 7 blanks in a row.
Shane Duffy – The 6ft 4′ centre-back wins just about everything in the air, so Salomon Rondon will have his hands full up against both him and fellow giant Lewis Dunk. It’s also worth noting that Duffy is their second top scorer on 5 goals, with him being a real threat from set pieces.
Anthony Knockaert – Back from a ban after seeing red for a stupid challenge in their 0-5 defeat to Bournemouth just a few weeks ago. It remains to be seen if Hughton will recall him, however’s he’s one of few players in this Brighton side who can produce a moment of magic from nothing – or a moment of madness!
Predicted Brighton XI – Ryan – Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Bernado – Knockaert, Stephens, Bissouma, March – Gross – Murray.
Jamaal Lascelles will miss out with a ‘stomach illness’, while Miguel Almiron has been ruled out for the season with a hamstring injury.
Both Florian Lejeune and SeanLongstaff will miss out once again, but the good news is that Fabian Schar and Isaac Hayden are expected to be fit despite limping off during last weekend’s win over Southampton.
Brighton winger Anthony Knockaert is back after completing a three-match suspension, but Dutch midfielder Davy Propper is out with a hamstring problem.
This is a huge game for Brighton, so it all depends on (A) how they handle the occasions and B) what NUFC side turns up now survival has been officially secured.
Hughton’s free-falling side could freeze under the pressure – something they’ve done in their past two home games, losing by an aggregate score of 0-7 – or they may just rise to the occasion in what some Seagulls fans will see as a must win. They face Arsenal and City in their last two, while Cardiff playing Fulham tomorrow followed by Palace next weekend, so this is their big chance to get a monumental three points.
I can see them being pretty organised at the back and fear we may be a little one dimensional in attack now Almiron’s injured, however I struggle to see them scoring more than once.
Start well and we’ll have Brighton well and truly on the ropes, but I see this being a low-scoring draw in a game they can not afford to lose.
Prediction: Brighton 1-1 Newcastle
Howay the lads!