It may be deadline day, with us spending the day pushing through deals for Leicester stiker Islam Slimani and Prague stopper Martin Dubravka, but it is also a matchday – and tonight’s game is a massive one.
It’s easy to forget in amongst all the transfer goings on both in and out the club, however tonight’s game really is a big against a defiant Burnley side who won’t make it easy.
I go into this one not knowing quite what to expect. Will there be protests against Ashley or positivity surrounding late new arrivals? Will Rafa start Kenedy and introduce a potential new formation to fit him in? Will we find a massive result amongst this month of adversity or will a devastating defeat plunge us into deep deep water?
The seemingly imminent arrivals of Slimani and Dubravka are a timely boost ahead of tonight’s game, easing huge frustrations that existed this time yesterday, however this new-found positivity will soon dissipate if we don’t do the business on the pitch today.
Burnley are no mugs, hence their position in the league (8th!), and Swansea’s big win over Arsenal last night only piled more pressure on us to beat them tonight.
As ever with Rafa, it’s hard to say what side we’re going to play tonight, however this is the team I’d like to see start. It’s risky, but we’re without a league win at home in 7 games and something’s got to give:
It accommodates Kenedy superbly (who I fancy to start in a bid to give the home crowd a lift), also allowing Atsu and Murphy to start; being two players who have the ability to have a go at Burnley and get us on the front foot.
Ritchie on the right would be a tad worry given how he fared at wing-back away to Chelsea in the league, but this is a very different game and one we should be approaching in a much more positive manor.
Merino would normally be one of my first names on the team sheet, but with so much talk in Spain of Aletico Bilbao’s interest, I’d be unsure about starting him unless his head was 100% in the right place.
Ones to watch..
Ashley Barnes – A real unit of a striker who’ll hold the ball up well, win his physical battles and be a real threat when balls come into our box. He’s not flash, but he’s effective.
Lennon/Nkoudou – Two new loan signings who could start out wide and cause us problems on the break with their direct style and lightning pace.
Benn Mee – A solid defender and one whose played a massive part in Burnley’s superb season so far. He’ll be key for them – especially with Tarkowski likely to miss out
Nick Pope – He’s gone from strength to strength in Tom Heaton’s absence and has a tendency to shut teams out. Burnley don’t tend to give away too many chances, so we’ll have to be clinical to beat the man who has 9 clean sheets this season.
For an inside look into today’s opponents, take a look at this week’s edition of the ‘Opposition Opinion’ which can be found on the home page. A great insight into tonight’s opponents from a Burnley fan.
Newcastle – 15th (23 pts) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 1 / Drawn: 2 / Lost: 2
Burnley – 8th (34 pts) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 0 / Drawn: 2 / Lost: 3
Chelsea loanee Kenedy is available and could make his NUFC debut.
Aside from Jesus Gamez, it seems Rafa Benitez will have a fully fit squad to pick from – although the game might come too soon for Florian Lejeune whose back in full training but lacking match fitness.
For the visitors, Steve Defour is OUT, with star centre-back James Tarkowski facing a late fitness test – however Aaron Lennon is in line to make his debut.
Left-back Stephen Ward could return after missing Burnley’s last eight games, but Dean Marney (knee), Jon Walters (knee), Chris Wood (knee), Robbie Brady (knee) and Tom Heaton (shoulder) all remain sidelined.
Predicted NUFC XI – (4-2-3-1) – Darlow – Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett – Diame, Shelvey – Ritchie, Perez, Kenedy– Joselu
Predicted Burnley XI – (4-1-3-2) – Pope – Bardsley, Mee, Long, Ward – Lennon, Cork, Westwood, Arfield – Hendrick – Barnes
We’ve not won in our last 7 at home in the league, but Burnley are on a poor run of form themselves. You could say something’s got to give, but we’re struggling for goals (at present, lets hope Slimani helps) and they don’t tend to concede many.
Unless we can play tonight with renewed energy or ideas then I think we’ll struggle to break Burnley down. The atmosphere around St James’ tonight could have a big bearing on how we play – and today’s transfer developments suggest it might be more positive than we anticipated.
Heart – Kenedy plays a blinder, it’s a great atmosphere after Slimani’s unveiled and we win 2-0.
Head – Burnley are a tough nut to crack and we have to settle for a point.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-1 Burnley
Howay the lads!