Can Newcastle Tame February to Win the Championship?

If you had asked that question at the start of the season it would seem about 99% of football fans would have said it was already a done deal before a ball had even been kicked.

However, those of us savvy enough to follow the Championship religiously will know that England’s second tier is no walk in the park (even if your manager is a former Champions League winner).

Brighton and Hove Albion are proving to be a thorn in the Magpies’ side as they refuse to let go of the Toons coattails and sit just one point behind Benitez’ men in the league.

Despite this, Newcastle is back as the frontrunner for the Championship title according to CrownBet’s EFL odds.

Brighton and the chasing pack of Huddersfield, Reading, Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday may have something to say about that, but time is starting to run out.

Up next for Newcastle is a trip to face last season’s fellow Premier League relegation candidates Norwich City.

Canaries manager Alex Neil came under serious pressure from the Norwich fans and board during the Christmas period, but their faith in the manager has been proven justified in recent weeks with Norwich winning four out of their last five games to lift them to the cusp of the play-off places in seventh.

The game will be a stern test for Newcastle as they look to assert their authority on top spot while their closest rivals Brighton, welcome an uninspired Ipswich side to the Amex.

February is a tough month for the Magpies, not only do they play Norwich on Tuesday night, they then welcome Aston Villa to St James Park next Monday before facing Bristol City and then the highlight of the season, Brighton away at the end of the month.

There are three games to play before Brighton welcome Newcastle to the south coast at the end of the month and anything can happen in the meantime.

However, Newcastle will be buoyed by the news that top goal scorer Dwight Gayle could be in contention to face Norwich on Tuesday night and will be almost certainly fit to play against Brighton.

Gayle’s 20 league goals this season has helped propel Newcastle to not just the top of the table but also the scoring charts with 58 goals scored this season (Tuesday’s opponents Norwich are the next highest with 55 goals) and his return to action is a big boost in their bid to win the league.

Nothing less than winning the title this season will be deemed a successful campaign with Newcastle arguably boasting a stronger side this year than during their relegation from the Premier League last season.

Still, the Magpies have lost seven games this season proving that they are susceptible to the odd case of switching off which has kept the rest of the field in contention (Brighton has only lost four).

Newcastle’s superior amount of games won (21 to Brighton’s 19) has just kept their noses ahead in the race for the title with the crunch tie between the top two at the end of the month looking like it will be the decider of who claims the title this year.

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