Newcastle vs Watford: Pre-match thoughts, team news & predicted line-ups

After Amanda Staveley and PCP’s takeover bid was announced on Monday, it will have been easy for some to forget that we have a rather important game to play at St James’ Park.
Marco Silva’s in-form Watford side are the opponents – a side who can’t be underestimated after their strong start to the season.
On the flip side, we’ve struggled of late, making this one massive to stop the rot. It’s a huge game. Given we’re actually still 12th, a win would get us firmly back on track, but a bad result would create some cause for concern around Tyneside – especially given our tough run of fixtures to come over the festive period.
Fortunately, Mikel Merino is set to make a timely return to the side, giving us a much needed boost. It’s no coincidence that his absence has coincided with three straight defeats.
Hopefully we can channel the positive energy created from Staveley’s bid and use that to get behind the players and create a feel-good atmosphere around St James’ Park.
A good start will be key however. As we saw in the Bournemouth game, you’ll be punished in this league if you fail to take your chances.

The Team

With Rafa confirming Lascelles and Dummett will be missing once again, the defence is likely to be unchanged, seeing Lejeune and Clark flanked by Yedlin and Manquillo. Hopefully we’ll have learnt our lessons that saw us carved open a little too easily at Old Trafford. Yes the opposition was as devastating as we’ve seen so far this season, but we’ll have to find the right balance of attack and defence this time out.

Ahead of that them, Jonjo Shelvey looks set to be reunited with the Mikel Merino in the middle of midfield. Despite the defeat, I thought Shelvey put in a mature and measured display at Man Utd, however Merino’s return is an even bigger plus point. The Spaniard has been elegant but energetic, physical but poised and his quality and composure has been sorely missed over the last three games. His return from a back injury is a huge boost.

Hopefully we see a slightly more influential Matt Ritchie. He’s normally the man who sets the tone for our performances, but has been very quiet ever since his all action first half against Bournemouth.

On the other side, we’re likely to see Jacob Murphy given consecutive starts for the first time since completing his big money move from Norwich over the summer. He’s had a slow start to life on Tyneside, but his performance at Old Trafford was by far his most promising yet. Hopefully he takes confidence from that and can kick on in front of a hopeful home crowd tomorrow. I can’t stress the importance of being patient with him however – any jibes from the crowd if he makes an early error or misplaced are not needed. Let’s get behind him.

Up top, Dwight Gayle must keep his place. He’ll have taken confidence from his first goal of the season last weekend and is without doubt our most natural goalscorer.

The above may seem an obvious thing to say, but I’m unsure if Rafa will stick with two up top – meaning Gayle’s place in the side could be at threat given the gaffer tends to opt for a big man when playing just one up front.

Gayle played just off Joselu in our last home game in the defeat to Bournemouth. It worked well in the first half as far as our attacking threat was concerned, but Gayle’s tactical awareness and defensive positioning doesn’t seem to be as affective as Perez’s – meaning we looked far more open as a result. Watford like to play on the counter, so Rafa might be reluctant to play two up top again? Perez to perhaps return in an attempt to combat this?

With this in mind, we may just see Joselu dropped for this one? If not, Gayle may have to be a bit more conscious of his defensive positioning in the role just behind Joselu.

Once again, I’d prefer to see Mitrovic partner Gayle if we did go for that big man, little man partnership, but once again that looks so unlikely to happen. I think it’s time to accept Mitrovic doesn’t have a future at the club under Rafa Benitez if the gaffer is playing a misfiring, former fourth choice Stoke striker ahead of him every week.

The Opposition

For the visitors, two players have really impressed me whenever I’ve watched them this season – Richarlison and Doucoure.

Richarlison is direct, skillfull and has an eye for goal. We’ll have to keep a close eye on him, however Yedlin could be the man for the job.

Doucoure is a really underated player. Like Merino he’s comfortable both on and off the ball and is the main driving force of this revitalised Watford side. ‘Stop him and you stop Watford’ I’m told.

Goalkeeper Gomes always has a world class save in his locker, however the three centre-backs in front of him lack any height or presence, with two of the three set to start tomorrow being under 6ft. Balls into the box and some physicality up top could be the order of the day?

For an inside look into the opposition, see this week’s edition of ‘The Opposition Opinion’ where we’ve gained the thoughts of a Watford fan we’ve been speaking to this week.



Newcastle – 11th (14 pts) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 1 / Drawn: 1 / Lost: 3

Watford – 8th –(18 pts) – Last 5 in the league /  Won: 2  / Drawn: 0 / Lost: 3

Team News

Isaac Hayden is suspended for this one after picking up his 5th yellow of the season at Old Trafford, however Benitez has confirmed that Mikel Merino is available once again.

 Jamaal Lascelles (ankle) and Christian Atsu (thigh) and Paul Dummett (hamstring) look set to miss out once again.

Waford captain Troy Deeney is out,  serving the final game of a three-match suspension.

Craig Cathcart (knee) and Younes Kaboul (hamstring) will be missing once again, whilst midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah (knee) and forward Isaac Success (knee) are still oit injured.

Full-back Kiko Femenia has been declared fit to play after being forced off with cramp against West Ham on Sunday.


Predicted Line-ups

Newcastle United XI – (4-4-1-1) – Elliot – Yedlin, Lejeune, Clark, Manquillo – Ritchie, Merino, Shelvey, Murphy – Gayle – Joselu

Watford XI – (3-4-2-1) Gomes – Marriapa, Britos, Kabasele – Femenia, Cleverly, Doucoure, Holebas – Hughes, Richarlison – Gray



Recent results haven’t tended to go our way, but it’s worth mentioning we’ve lost just one of our last 12 home league games against Watford (W8 D3).


Match Prediction

This won’t be easy. I think the Watford defence can be got at, but they’re dangerous going forward and have pace and goals in them on the counter.

It’s a game we’ll obviously be looking to win, but any gung-ho approach would see us play right into their hands given their potency on the counter.

An early start could be key, but we’ll have to manage this game much better than we have done in previous weeks.

I fancy a few foals in this one. It’s a big game, but we’ll need a big performance to get all three points. I’m more hopeful now Merino is back, but I have been impressed by Watford.

PredictionNewcastle 2-2 Watford

Howay the lads!

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About Olly Hawkins

Olly has been a Junior Magpie from birth. As a season ticket holder and avid Newcastle United fan - he eats, sleeps and breathes all things NUFC.

47 thoughts on “Newcastle vs Watford: Pre-match thoughts, team news & predicted line-ups

  1. Stuart: Fetch me a King Power Leicester City shirt back from the airport. Up the escalator, turn left. 1 million baht.


  2. Olly, thanks.
    Watford look very good but I do think we have an advantage should Rafa choose to use it- Mitro.
    Given the small stature of their defenders and the sheer physical presence of Mitro to cause mayhem in their box it’s a no brainer for me. I would partner him with gayle and when they are busy trying to nullify Mitro’s threat up pops Gayle in theory . Of course I’m no tactical genius but at home it’s how I would start. Rafa will have dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s on this one though and I’m sure he has a plan, let’s hope the lads can execute it.
    I thought we were excellent first half last week against massive opposition and actually looked the more threatening, more of the same today would be great.


  3. Tough game this one. I think he’ll play Perez instead of Joselu.
    Looking ahead there’s 26 games left. 9 against the top six leaving 17 we might get points from. Lose a couple soon we’ll have 15 games needing to win 7. Not a good situation to continue a losing run.


  4. looking forward to the return of Merino too, he’s been a huge miss imo. Back injuries are notoriously hard to get on top of, mines been buggered for years not helped by dodgy knees and Achilles flare ups. I have no idea how footballers run around after them type of injuries some days I struggle to walk properly let alone run around.


  5. Just looking at the league and Everton and WBA have sacked managers coz of such a bad start this season – both are only 2 points behind us.
    We need more than draws or we get pulled into the battle of the bottom half. I know Watford is a hard game, and both us and them are missing players. My big concern today is the middle of the park. I don’t think Merino will be straight back in today personally. I expect to see Saivet on the team sheet and that doesn’t instill confidence.

    Tough game but we need a win.


  6. Diame back in doesn’t exactly instill confidence. I’ve never seen him play well yet. And I really don’t understand the persistence with Joselu. Bloke’s a donkey.


  7. So it’s Diame in the middle and Saivet isn’t even in the first team squad today.
    Fortunately Merino is on the bench coz I’ve seen nothing from Diame either this season or last.

    I’m hoping Murphy builds on last week coz he played well imo. If he could grab a goal today I think the lads confidence would take a huge boost.

    This one could go either way for me.


  8. Joselu starts again, well after his dazzling display last week why not (face palm). Mitro is 10x the player he is. A would bet anything mitro gone in jan


  9. Just seen the starting line up so I can now make my game prediction.
    If Watford don’t score we will get a point.


  10. The only bright side I can see out of it is hopefully it can push Ashley to sell the club sooner, or make him realise we really need to strengthen the squad in winter if he does not want the club to relegate again.


  11. A bit like last week – we started bright but faded out having not converted early chances.

    We have nothing up front to worry any team in this league.

    We will be a team fighting relegation with performances like this.

    This is a huge period in the clubs history.


  12. kimtoon:
    Shelvey on a yellow now scissor challenge

    Kim – I didn’t get on earlier, but that was a Kane on Lejeune tackle – maybe balanced itself out with the red cards there.


  13. crock of **** this performance today, he must start starting Mitro, it’s clear as day Joselu can’t cut it, he missed two good early chances, lads got no confidence . And the one thing we had was our defensive quality but boy our goal difference has taken a hell of a battering the last two weeks with 7 shipped so far.
    And bang on que, the Baggies are finding their mojo now they have gotten rid of the manager they weren’t playing for 🙄


  14. Why bring Mitro on so late ?, He’s now snatching and rushing his chances . Feel sorry for the lad, how’s he meant to impress.


  15. and now Palace look like they are winning and Brighton are having a good game v Manure and should be level by all accounts


  16. What a load of ****e, some body needs to grab rafa by his blazer and shake him shouting joselu isnt the answer. We are in trouble now a think. 5m for joselu man thats 4.5m to much imo


  17. We can’t score. That is our problem. We tried Joselu, Gayle and Mitro. Neither can score. Newcastle has to buy one or two decent forwards, otherwise I am afraid no one can prevent us from being relegated again.


  18. Mitro should of started, was never gonna make an impact so late on. It’s not fashionable to question Rafa but imo he got it very wrong today. Defence is badly missing Lascelles too.
    I’m wondering if Ritchie is carrying an injury as he was poor again today. Diame and Joselu would appear to be donkeys.


  19. If someone can get data, please find Joselu’s running distance and compare to Mitro’s average running distance to see whether Mitro is good for a starter. Joselu can’t score but without his running our defence will be even scrappier. Mitro was on because Watford was sitting back defending, that is when the forward has no need to run up and down.


  20. Rafa could have played conservative, sitting back and play counter, which will be much safer. I don’t understand why all of sudden he is so aggressive – play 442 with such weak holding midfielder. It is not like him.


  21. Fans been calling for 442 though so he can now say, well I tried and it don’t work. Trouble is it may of worked with Mitro alongside Gayle from the start. Mitro holds the ball up well enough but he is a different player to Joselu who is quicker but ineffective in front of goal and goals is what wins games.
    Feed the beast with quality crosses and he will score, he does it well enough for Serbia.


  22. Truth is Rafa has a pile of poop to work with, only 3 or 4 players have real Pl quality. Need investment in jan one way or another.


  23. But remember Mitro was dropped to the 3rd choose even last season. Murphy (the one sold) was even better than him in front of goal.


  24. Like I said previously, gona be a hard slog until the New Year and the prediction of very few points if any for this set of fixtures is a step closer to reality. We are lightweight in midfield and incompetent up front.


  25. Score was not a fair reflection on how we played. Should have been six in my opinion. Yedlin was lost. Failed to mark his man on several occasions and was bollocked by Ritchie. Shelvey tries too many long punts upfield and my picture is of him walking back whilst three Watford men ran past him. Manquillo can only pass sideways and backwards. Murphy was the one bright spot. Thought he had a good game and was surprised he was taken off. Rant over.


  26. Rant not quite over. I agree with all the comments already made about Diame. Saivet couldn’t be worse but what has Mbemba done wrong? Not had a bad game as far as I can recall which is more than you can say for some regular players. Watford showed us how to pass and move and they looked far fitter than us.


  27. Funrafa
    If you look up marathon man and nufc you will find that Joselu covers 4.8 miles per game which is the sixth best in the team. There is no stat for Mitro because they only compare players who actually start a game.
    For a comparison, I do a six mile walk 3 times a week and it takes me 2 hours without a break, while Joselu does 4.8.miles in 90 minutes with a 15 minute break half way through..
    I am 70 years old and have survived 4 heart attacks and 2 strokes, have had open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve and my aorta ( the main artery from the heart to the lower abdomen) has been wrapped in wire mesh to try and prevent it from bursting.
    I reckon I put more effort in than Joselu.


  28. sidekick:
    If you look up marathon man and nufc you will find that Joselu covers 4.8 miles per game which is the sixth best in the team. There is no stat for Mitro because they only compare players who actually start a game.
    For a comparison, I do a six mile walk 3 times a week and it takes me 2 hours without a break, while Joselu does 4.8.miles in 90 minutes with a 15 minute break half way through..
    I am 70 years old and have survived 4 heart attacks and 2 strokes, have had open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve and my aorta ( the main artery from the heart to the lower abdomen) has been wrapped in wire mesh to try and prevent it from bursting.
    I reckon I put more effort in than Joselu.


    Thank you for your information. Things will improve, I believe.


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