Newcastle won’t play now for 2 weeks, following Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Birmingham, as we enter the International break.
While this break from domestic football is often dreaded by fans, we look at the three reasons why the International break comes at an ideal time for The Magpies:
1. Gives time for players to return from injury
Newcastle’s injury concerns have begun to mount over recent weeks. The break could however see several players return from injury when Newcastle welcome Wigan to St.James’ Park in their next match on 1st April.
Isaac Hayden hasn’t featured since Newcastle’s home win against Derby early in February, missing the last 9 league games after undergoing ankle surgery last month. The 21 year-old has been back in training over the past week and looks set to be in contention to make a welcome return against Wigan.
Ciaran Clark picked up a knee injury in the defeat to Fulham, ruling him out of Saturday’s draw at Birmingham. Having been withdrawn from the Ireland squad, Benitez will be hoping the star centre-back returns in good time.
Grant Hanley (Clark’s replacement on Saturday) helped Newcastle to a clean sheet over the weekend, but has since withdrawn from the Scotland squad, likewise Rob Elliot who pulls out from the Ireland team.
As if injuries weren’t bad enough already, The Chronicle’s Lee Ryder has confirmed this morning that Daryl Murphy is having a calf injury assessed by the Irish medical team.
Finally, DeAndre Yedlin was also recently ruled out for 5 weeks with a thigh injury. While the American won’t be ready any time soon, the end of the International break will see the first choice right-back two weeks closer to a return.
2. Provides a much needed rest
The nature of the Championship is relentless enough as it is, but it’s fair to say the Newcastle squad are due a rest, given their recent excursions in a hectic schedule.
Newcastle have played 6 games in 3 weeks, including a monumental effort in the defining week of away trips to Brighton, Huddersfield and Reading.
While it can’t be an excuse, it is argued that tiredness has played a part in Newcastle’s lacklustre displays in the last 3 games. Since the huge effort that saw The Magpies win at both Brighton & Huddersfield, Newcastle have picked up just 2 points, scoring just once as 0-0 draws away to Reading and Birmingham have come either side of a convincing 3-1 home defeat to Fulham.
Paul Dummett and Vurnon Anita have both played with pain-killing injections in recent weeks, with the break affording them two valuable weeks of rest to fully recover.
Jonjo Shelvey, who started from the bench on Saturday due to midweek illness, should also benefit from the break, as well as Dwight Gayle, who will look to get back up to speed after a period out with a hamstring injury.
3. Allows Rafa time to re-think home tactics
Newcastle’s next two fixtures on the back of the International break see them face consecutive home games against relegation threatened duo, Wigan Athletic and Burton Albion.
Not only has Newcastle’s home form been a concern of late, being played off the park by Fulham in their last outing at St. James Park’, The Magpies have failed to win back to back home wins in four attempts this season.
Rafa Benitez could therefore benefit from a break, allowing him time to re-think his sides home strategy ahead of two games at St. James’ Park that his side will be expected to win.
Two wins would also provide a timely boost to Newcastle’s promotion bid, with a tough test to come at Sheffield Wednesday, followed by the visit of 4th place Leeds United to St. James’ Park.