City on Wednesday night was a strange old game but never one we expected anything out of – so much so a 1-0 defeat felt like a decent result! Tomorrow’s game is very different.
Brighton have enjoyed a solid start to the season, but they’re very much a side we could see in the relegation scrap come May next year, making this one a bit of a six pointer. Rafa rotated on Wednesday and it was with this one in mind, putting real emphasis on our ‘big guns’ to return and rally the troops onto 3 points.
There’ll be some renewed positivity and confidence around the place going into this one – with West Ham away a huge win and Wednesday a commendable effort – but we’ve got to keep that going and covert performances into points.
The defeat to Man City was our FIFTH straight home defeat. Another against Brighton would see us back to square one, setting the alarm bells ringing once more, but a win will see us leapfrog Brighton and send us to the Britannia on Monday with our tails well & truly up.
These are the sort of games that we must be winning if we’re serious about staying up this season. The lads owe us a win and I’m hoping (and praying) they’ll step up and deliver the goods.
The team that started vs Man City – (5-4-1) Elliot – Yedlin, Mbemba, Lascelles, Dummett, Manquillo – Murphy, Diame, Shelvey, Aarons – Joselu.
Rafa played the above side with tomorrow’s tussle with Brighton in mind. I’m expecting some big chances here with this lot having done an awful lot of work off the ball just 48 hours ago.
We’ll almost certainly revert to 4 at the back. I expect Mbemba to drop out and Lascelles to continue alongside Clark (who was another rested in midweek). Dummett is our best left-back and barely put a foot wrong on his return, but I’m not expecting him to start 2 games in 3 days after 5 months out.
Merino, Ritchie, Atsu and Gayle all had to settle for a place on the bench on Wednesday, but I expect all four to return to the starting 11 tomorrow. The return of Atsu and Merino could be particularly key, with the former running rings around West Ham and the latter looking much like the Merino we know and love in his last start at Arsenal.
Diame has played the full 90 against West Ham and City so I’m fully expecting him to be rested. Could Saivet return to the side alongside Merino? I fully expect the latter to start, but Saivet’s involvement will most probably depend on Hayden’s availability – however Henri probably deserves another shot after his promising display at West Ham.
Shelvey alongside Merino is another option, but I’m not convinced Rafa will go for that? It’d certainly be the forward thinking partnership many fans would like to see.
Up top we could well see Gayle and Joselu play together again. They caused West Ham problems last Saturday and seem to get the best out of each other – however that has sometimes been to the detriment of the team, with 4-4-2 tending to leave us more open than Rafa would like to see us.
Perez has barely featured in the last few games. With rotation a necessity during these busy periods, he could well come back into the fold tomorrow.
New number 10 Pascal Gross has to be seen their star man this season (from an offensive perspective at least), bagging 4 goals and 5 assists and being at the heart of all they do good going forward. He works his socks off too so he’ll be one to watch.
They’ve been pretty resolute at the back too when I’ve seen them and tend to keep in games, with towering centre-back pairing Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy appearing to have built a strong partnership. Joselu has won more headers than any other player in the Premier League this season, but he’ll do well to get much joy out of these two tomorrow.
Newcastle – 15th (18 pts) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 1 / Drawn: 0 / Lost: 4
Brighton – 1st – (21 pts) – Last 5 in the league / Won: 1/ Drawn: 1 / Lost: 3
Benitez has suggested Hayden is a ‘maybe’ for tomorrow’s game, but Lejeune, Mitrovic and Gamez have all been ruled out.
Merino, Atsu, Ritchie and Gayle are all expected to return after being rotated on Wednesday.
Brighton have no new injury concerns, with midfielder Steve Sidwell set to be their only senior absentee.
Newcastle XI – (4-4-2) – Elliot – Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Manquillo – Ritchie, Merino, Hayden, Atsu – Gayle, Joselu.
Brighton XI – (4-4-1-1) –Ryan – Schelotto, Dunk, Duffy, Suttner – March, Propper, Stephens, Izquierdo – Gross – Murray
We may have done the double over them last season, but we’ll be looking to avenge the 1-0 defeat earlier in the season at the Amex. Interestingly, we’ve failed to score in 4 of our last 6 encounters with them..
A huge game and big opportunity to end the year on a high and make the most of one of the more ‘winnable’ games we’re going to get this season.
I’m quietly hopeful about this one, but we can’t take Brighton lightly. There’s no room for complacency given our recent home record and precarious place in the table, but I have a feeling the the confidence boost from West Ham away and the midweek rotation could serve us well for this one.
Lascelles’ return has shored us up at the back and the return of Merino, Ritchie, Atsu and Gayle should freshen things up at the other end – with all four having looked sharp in their last few outings.
They’ll be bang up for this and will be a tough nut to crack, but I fancy us to get the job done to end our dismal home run. If we can put in the shift we did on Wednesday, stay compact and show the sort of attacking threat we did at West Ham, I’m confident we can get back to winning ways at St James’.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-0 Brighton
Howay the lads!