Tomorrow night will bring about the dawn of a new era. A new era for Rafa Benitez, a new era for the players, a new era for how the club is run and a well deserved new era for the Toon Army…..If the club can avoid the drop…
If you are still pinching yourself and asking: ‘Is Rafa really the Gaffer or am I just dreaming?’ Take a look at the proof by watching his first Newcastle press conference below.
Rafa confirms 3 things in this interview. First, he has a get out clause in the event of relegation. Second, his title is manager, not head coach. It is so important we stay up now. If we drop, we will probably be tied to the old model of Carr and Charnley running things with some cheap head coach in place. But if we stay up, Rafa stays – as manager, which means a total about-turn from Mike Ashley and a world class manager making the footballing decisions for the first time at this club since Sir Bobby Robson. Third thing he said, was several players ‘injured’ on the Thursday were miraculously fit to train on the Friday. This shows the players are ready to graft for this man during the season’s finale. This Leicester game is an audition for the players to prove their worth to the only manager in history to have won the UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup.
Newcastle team news:
Tim Krul is out for the season with a knee injury. Massaido Haidara is also absent with the same complaint. This game should come too soon for Chancel Mbemba (ankle) but Gabriel Obertan (hamstring) and Fabricio Coloccini (calf) were apparently seen in training this weekend… Andros Townsend should make the squad having shaken off his hamstring tweak and Kevin Mbabu (hip) has a chance of making the bench. The game may well come too soon for Paul Dummett (also hamstring). Papiss Cisse has been struggling with a groin injury whilst Cheick Tiote is lacking match fitness. I have a feeling most of those players will have been desperately trying to prove they are fit this weekend though.
Leicester currently enjoy a 5 point lead over the other suprise title contenders Tottenham Hotspur. A win on Monday night could see them go 8 points clear. Amazing stuff for a team nailed on for relegation last winter.
A word from Claudio Ranieri:
It must be stressed these were his words before Rafa Benitez was appointed. No doubt he would have a bit more to say now but he still acknowledges us as a tough side with good players. No doubt he will have been telling his players to stay focused and not take anybody for granted – and not much will have changed since our new manager! came in. The only difference now is he will be telling his players the task just got tougher so try even harder.
Leicester City team news:
Sly Fox Riyad Mahrez has recovered from a cramped hamstring, which is very bad news for the Toon as he is arguably this season’s Premier League midfielder of the year. Matty James is in contention following a long lay off with a knee complaint. Otherwise it’s a clean bill of health for this season’s suprise package.
Shamrock’s Stats and Facts:
• Newcastle have not won at Leicester since 1999.
• Leicester beat Newcastle 3-0 in each of the last 2 games between the sides.
• Daryl Janmaat and Mike Williamson both got sent off in this fixture last season, with John Carver publicy claiming Willo was dismissed intentionally.
• Until the last 2 losses against the Foxes, the Magpies had gone 7 games unbeaten against them (won 3, drew 4).
• Leicester have lost only once in their last 17 home fixtures in the league.
• Newcastle have lost 17 of their last 21 away league games. Ouch.
• Newcastle United have lost their last eight Premier League matches played on a Monday and have failed to score in the last five of these. All eight of these have been away from home.
• Riyad Mahrez has 15 goals and 11 assists this season. He is the only player to be in double figures for both goals and assists.
• Leonardo Ulloa has scored 3 times against the Toon in his last 3 games.
• Matchday referee Craig Pawson has taken charge of 3 Foxes games and 3 Toon games this season, with neither side recording a win. With that in mind, get your money on a draw!
Leicester are doing very well this season and despite every pundit tipping them to lose momentum at some stage, they just keep producing results. It’s hard to see past a Foxes win even with a new manager ‘bounce’, but I can’t see many Toon fans expecting anything else.
Let’s just get behind the team and show the squad and manager our full support. You never know, we might get lucky but I’m sure most will settle for simply seeing Rafa in the dugout making sound team selections and sound tactical changes mid-game. Something Steve McClaren seemed incapable of. It will also be good to see Rafa hold any prima donna’s to account. That, combined with the full backing of the Toon Army should be enough to eventually see this team move away from the dreaded drop zone.