After a weekend without football, we return under the Sky camera’s tomorrow night, taking on Burnley in a Monday Night Football clash at Turf Moor.
Prior to last Saturday’s 1-0 win over Palace, we’d been without a victory in our last three, so Mikel Merino’s late winner really does send us into this one with a spring in our step.
Burnley come into this one just a point behind us on 13 points, however it’s fair to say they’ve had far tougher fixtures, having already travelled to Chelsea, City, Spurs and Liverpool in the league; picking up three impressive draws in those four daunting away fixtures.
At home though, they haven’t been quite as strong. Aside from a 1-0 win over a Frank De Boer Crystal Palace earlier in the season, they’ve been beaten 0-1 to West Brom, drawn 0-0 with Huddersfield and scraped a 1-1 draw with a struggling West Ham side who played with 10 men for well over an hour. Their strong start across their opening nine games suggests we must not treat them lightly, but with just two wins in their last 13 home games, we should be looking to get at them tomorrow.
Dyche is doing a great job and it’s worth mentioning that they’ve only conceded two goals in four home games this season, however have clear limitations which we should be looking to exploit tomorrow night.
Some costly errors were made in our last away trip at Southampton, but it was a promising performance and one that I’m hoping we can build on at Burnley.
There’s the odd change Benitez well make for this one. Whether he does is a different matter, but here’s a few to consider.
I can’t see Lascelles or Lejeune being hoisted from the team, although I’ve been wondering if we’ll see Clark fill in at left-back. Manquillo has done a steady job in the last three, but I do wonder if Rafa will value Clark’s superior aerial ability and defensive instincts in a game where coping with their physicality, set pieces and attempts to get the ball into the box from wide areas will be key.
Merino missed out against Palace, but I’m hopeful he’ll be brought back into the fold here. He gives us something both offensively and defensively – a trait that could be crucial in a game where we’ll have to be competitive at both ends of the pitch. It wouldn’t actually surprise me if Shelvey dropped out. He and Merino are yet to start in an away game this season, with Merino and Hayden often being preferred to give us a slightly more combative combination in the middle of the pitch.
Time will tell, but Shelvey was a little erratic against Palace (both on and off the ball) and while I would like to see a player of his ability play In a bid to hurt Burnley, you can see why Rafa may prefer the other two.
Then to Perez. A player we often mention when it comes to team selection, yet one who has started every one of our nine games thus far. He had an absolute stinker against Palace and whilst I don’t expect him to be dropped, Diame made a case for a recall to the team with a decent cameo last Saturday. He didn’t set the world alight, but in 20 minutes, he offered more than Perez did for the 70 minutes prior.
Joselu has been Rafa’s go-to striker for several weeks now, but he’s been quite disappointing since what seemed like his breakthrough goal against Liverpool. He’s really struggled to get into the game in our last two against Southampton and Palace, and whilst he does put in a shift for the team (like Perez), he hasn’t shown enough on the ball (like Perez!).
Mitrovic and Gayle are players who aren’t battering down the door to dislodge the Spaniard from Rafa’s starting 11 tomorrow, but now the pair are back in contention, it makes you wonder if Benitez will give either their big chance from the off at Burnley in a bid to keep Joselu on his toes.
Top scorer Chris Wood is a big unit and their real danger man in the box, however he is rated touch and go for this one. The former Leeds striker beat Dwight Gayle to the Championship golden boot last season, scoring in their 1-1 draw at St James’ earlier this year. I’d be happy to hear he’s missed out come 7pm tomorrow!
Steven Defour is one to watch for them in midfield. A seasoned campaigner and one of their better technical players in the middle of the pitch.
Last season’s player of the season Tom Heaton is out with a long-term shoulder injury, and whilst the summer sale of Michael Keane looked set to leave a huge hole for them to fill at the back, centre-halves Ben Mee and James Tarkowski have done a superb job in his absence, with the latter earning real praise for his heroic displays so far this season.
For an inside look into Monday’s opposition, see this week’s edition of ‘The Opposition Opinion’ (which can be found on the home page), where we’ve gained the thoughts of Burnley fan Nick ahead of the game.
Newcastle – 8th (14 pts) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 2 / Drawn: 2 / Lost: 1
Burnley – 10th – 13pts) – Last 5 in the league / Won: 1 / Drawn: 3 / Lost: 1
Dwight Gayle is available once again after missing the home win over Crystal Palace.
Benitez has confirmed that Paul Dummett is the only absentee through injury, with forgotten left-back Massaido Haidara still lacking match fitness after a long spell on the sidelines.
For the hosts, Chris Wood looks set to face a late fitness test and is rated ‘touch and go’ to make this one after pulling out of their recent 3-0 defeat at Manchester City with a hamstring injury. Fellow striker Sam Vokes looks like he’ll be ok to fill in if Wood does miss out.
Tom Heaton (shoulder), Jonathan Walters (Knee) and Dean Marney (knee) are all ruled out.
Newcastle United XI – (4-2-3-1) – Elliot – Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Clark – Hayden, Merino – Ritchie, Perez , Atsu – Joselu
Burnley XI – (4-2-3-1) – Pope – Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Ward – Brady, Cork, Defour, Arfield – Hendrick – Wood.
As you can see, we’ve not played Burnley much in the 21st century, and when we have it’s been a draw.
It wouldn’t surprise me if this one ended in a draw again tomorrow!
This one could be a pretty low scoring and tight affair, with neither side being prolific so far this season, but both sides conceding less than a goal per game on average.
After seeing his name linked with the vacant Everton job all week, Sean Dyche and his side may have endured a slightly unsettling build up to the game, and although this may not prove significant in the slightest, I think we’ll edge this one.
We looked much improved at Southampton in our last away outing and on the flip side, Burnley’s home form has been pretty poor of late.
If we can stand up to their physical presence, stop them getting crosses into our box and hurt them on the counter, then I am quite confident we’ll come away with a win in this one.
Like us, they’re a dogged and defiant side who’ll fight for every ball, but with Benitez’s tactical nouse on our side and another display of real discipline and desire, we can nick another win here if we showed quality in the right moments.
Prediction: Burnley 0-1 Newcastle
Howay the lads!