With three wins on the spin and the wind in our sales, we travel to the Amex tomorrow to take on Brighton. A first for this fixture in the Premier League era, yet one we have such fond memories of from just over six months ago.
After a season of slugging it out twice a week in England’s second tier, it’s nice to see us both meet in the top flight. A richly deserved reward for a sapping yet successful season in the Championship.
Now to the Premier League and what a start it’s been! We may have had ‘winnable’ fixtures since Spurs on the opening day, but we’ve dug in, done our jobs and looked anything but out of our depth in earning a precious 9 points so far.
My feet are firmly on the floor. Being 4th in the league and 12 places above tomorrow’s opponents does nothing to tell me this is a nailed on three points. Like Swansea away, we’ll have to work for everything and anything we’ll get.
Defensively I don’t see much changing. Lascelles and Clark have been rock solid and that continuing could have a big bearing on the result tomorrow, whilst Yedlin and Mbemba should continue at right and left-back. Perhaps a tad harsh on Manquillo and Gamez who did solid jobs in our last away win at Swansea, but Yedlin and Mbemba seem fair first choice options when fit.
Merino and Hayden have started in midfield during each and every one of our last three, meaning Benitez is unlikely to break up a winning formula to bring Jonjo Shelvey back into the fold.
Ritchie and Atsu were instrumental once again in the win over Stoke and will almost certainly continue out wide, whilst Perez had one of his busier games last Saturday and should continue in the 10 role, being a player who’ll have fond memories of the Amex after his heroics earlier this year.
Joselu missed a hatful of chances against Stoke meaning his confidence in front of goal may be fragile, however he does hold the ball up well and for this reason deserves another shot up front. In a game where chances could be few and far between, some may prefer to see Gayle given the nod, but Joselu’s presence and involvement up top gives him the edge for me – providing he does find his feet in front of goal.
New boy Pascall Gross could be the main man to watch our for tomorrow. The German ‘number 10’ has been directly involved in every goal they’ve scored so far this season, scoring twice in their 3-1 win over West Brom last time out at the Amex.
He created more chances than any other player in the Bundesliga last season (and incredible stat given he played for lower league side Ingolstadt) and his running stats so far this season have been equally impressive, with only Liverpool’s James Milner having covered more ground.
Then there’s Anthony Knockaert. Last season’s Championship player of the year has done nothing of note so far this season but, after 15 goals and 8 assists last season, we’ve seen first hand what he’s capable of. Paul Dummett got the better of him on both occasions last season, but it’ll likely be Chancel Mbemba who’s handed that task tomorrow. It’ll be a big help if we can keep him quiet again.
At the back they’re pretty organised and plucky. Centre-halves Duffy and Dunk are big units and dominant in both boxes. It could be a real physical battle for Joselu up top, however they might be having the same thoughts about Lascelles, who’ll be looking to make it three goals in three!
In goal for them it’s likely to be new-boy Matthew Ryan, with Krul unlikely to start by all accounts.
From what I’ve read, Ryan got a bit of stick after a few early season errors and, at just 6ft, there’s been concerns voiced over his size. Firing some early shots at him and getting balls into the box could be the order of the day tomorrow.
For a closer look at tomorrow’s opponents, see our weekly feature ‘The Opposition Opinion’ which can be found on our home page. Here we’ve been speaking to Brighton fan Kieron, who has offered some insight into the Brighton side, his thoughts on NUFC and how he thinks the game may pan out tomorrow.
Brighton (16th) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 1 / Drawn: 1 / Lost: 3
Newcastle (4th) –Last 5 in the league / Won: 3 / Drawn: 0 / Lost: 2
Florian Lejeune looks likely to miss out after receiving treatment on his ankle, whilst the only other players unavailable through injury are Paul Dummett and Massaido Haidara. Aleksandar Mitrovic will miss out for the final time before returning from his 3-match ban against Liverpool next weekend.
Other than that, there’s little news on the injury which makes a nice change, giving Rafa a few nice problems to have ahead of his team selection tomorrow afternoon.
For Brighton, Hughton welcomes back club-captain Bruno, last season’s top scorer Glenn Murray, Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown and left-back Gaetan Bong, however it’s likely that only Bruno returns to their starting 11.
Midfielder Steve Sidwell is out with a back problem, with fellow midfielder Beram Kayal a long-term absentee as he recovers from a broken leg, leaving Hughton short of options in centre-midfield.
Newcastle United XI – (4-2-3-1) – Elliot – Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Mbemba – Hayden, Merino – Ritchie, Perez , Atsu – Joselu (*Unchanged from Stoke*)
Brighton XI (4-4-1-1) – Ryan – Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Suttner– Knockaert, Propper, Stephens, March – Gross – Hemed.
Our first meeting in the Premier League era, but a fixture that we’ve enjoyed in more recent history, with us doing the double on the Seagulls in the Championship last season. Diame’s unintended leveller and Perez’s late winner capped a monumental moment in our season earlier this year and more of the same tomorrow would go down a treat once again on Tyneside.
Brighton beat West Brom 3-1 in their last outing at the Amex. It gave them their first win of the new Premier League season and a much needed confidence booster, but since then they’ve been beaten twice at Bournemouth in the space of a week.
They’ll be bang up for this one for obvious reasons, but we could be the side with the spring in their step after three straight wins, having also had more time to prepare and our feet up on Tuesday night while they went out of the Carabo Cup to Bournemouth in extra time.
I think it’ll be tight and tense, but fear our winning streak may just end here with a battling draw. A result that’d bother Brighton more than Benitez.
Prediction: Brighton 1-1 Newcastle.
Howay the lads!