If you’d asked me in August which side were heading into the 2018/19 Premier League season with more momentum I would’ve said Fulham – but our seasons have gone in very different directions.
Our net spend since promotion is little over £100,000, yet Fulham spent over £100m alone last summer. This not only highlights what an incredible job Rafa Benitez has done once again this season, but shows just how horrific Fulham’s business has been.
On the face of it, it seemed like they were showing ambition, making more £20m plus signings in one summer than we’d made since 2005, however it soon became clear that they lacked heart, Premier League know-how and couldn’t defend to save their lives.
In fairness, they’ve been in good form over the past few weeks, winning three of their last 5 and sharpening up considerably at the back under ex-Mag Scott Parker – who’s just landed the job on a permanent basis as a result.
They’ll want to finish their season off on a high before heading into abother crucial Championship campaign, but in a game that could be his last as Newcastle manager, Rafa Benitez will be determined to sign off in style.
With Ki out, Jonjo Shelvey looks almost certain to start – and it could be his last for Newcastle United if Rafa Benitez remains at the club.
Yedlin is out after undergoing groin surgery, meaning Javier Manquillo will continue at right-wing back and rightly so. He’s not the answer, but he’s been brilliant of late.
Muto will be hoping for a rare start and rare chance to impress Rafa, but with Perez and Rondon certain to start and Atsu performing well against Liverpool, it doesn’t look like he’ll play.
Aside from Shelvey coming in for Ki, I expect us to be largely unchanged from the side that lost narrowly at St James’ Park last weekend.
Preferred NUFC XI – (3-4-2-1) – Dubravka – Schar, Lascelles, Dummett – Manquillo, Hayden, Shelvey, Ritchie – Perez, Atsu – Rondon.
Here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in Scott Parker’s side:
Aleksandar Mitrovic – The Serbian has only scored 3 goals since the turn of the year, but Rafa Benitez will know what he’s capable of if we allow Fulham to get good balls up to him in and around the box. His battle against Lascelles, Schar and Dummett will be the big ‘one to watch’ in this one.
Ryan Babel – A player Rafa brought to Liverpool many moons ago but someone who’s showing he’s still capable of playing at this level based on his performances at Fulham since January. He’s the one match winner at Fulham and has a rocket of a shot, having bagged 5 goals and 4 assists in 15 appearances for the Cottagers.
Tom Cairney – The midfielder has been constantly linked with a move to Newcastle, with Benitez said to be a big fan, however he’s failed to hit the heights this year on his first full season in the top flight. That said, he ran the show when Fulham hammered us at St James’ Park a few years ago.
Predicted Fulham XI – (4-2-3-1) – Rico – Odoi, Le Marchand, Ream, Bryan – Anguissa, Chambers – Sessegnon, Cairney, Babel – Mitrovic.
DeAndre Yedlin joins Miguel Almiron, Florian Lejeune and Sean Longstaff on the sidelines, with the American undergoing groin surgery earlier this week.
With one heading back to West Brom and the other heavily linked with a big move away, let’s hope it’s not the last time we see Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez.
Fulham right-back Denis Odoi is set to be assessed after missing their defeat at Wolves last weekend.
Fulham will be buoyed by the fact Scott Parker has now taken the job permanently at Craven Cottage, but Benitez will be determined to end the season in style – especially when this could be his last game in charge at the club.
The home side have been in much better form of late, being 6th in the form table at present with 3 win in their last 5, however there is a reason we’re 16 points better off than them this season.
If we can stop them getting good balls into Mitrovic, keep Babel quiet and have a bit of cutting edge about us on the counter then I can see us getting the win.
Prediction: Fulham 1-2 Newcastle
Howay the lads!