Newcastle United host bottom of the table Norwich City in the Premier League on Saturday.
We start the weekend seven points above the drop zone, whilst the Canaries are six points from safety – 13 points between the two teams.
Steve Bruce has guided us to a three-game undefeated streak in the Premier League which includes the 1-0 over Chelsea at St James’ Park a fortnight ago.
Respectful score draws away to both Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton give us good reason to believe we’re going to avoid the drop this season, despite entering the campaign in August fearing the worse.
Victory over Norwich could see us extend our lead over the bottom three to as many as 10 points with 13 games to go. Although, whilst Watford aren’t guaranteed a win at home to Everton, West Ham United do host Brighton & Hove Albion and Aston Villa travel to Bournemouth, so teams below us can expect points.
I am eager to see what Premiership Tips have to say about our games and those of our rivals in the bottom eight, as they’re usually right! The bookmakers are on our side at least, giving us a price of 6/5 to win, compared to the visitors’ 23/10.
Norwich’s first win of the 2019-20 Premier League campaign came at Carrow Road against us back in August. A hat-trick from Teemu Pukki saw them run out 3-1 winners, with Jonjo Shelvey scoring a consolation for us deep in stoppage time.
Both teams have gone in opposite directions since – Norwich winning just three of their next 22 games and with us moving away from the relegation zone.
This has been accomplished despite club record signing Joelinton scoring just one goal in his 23 starts up front. Centre-back Florian Lejuene scored twice as many as that in stoppage time at Goodison Park the other week!
No competition to the Brazilian has been added in January either, making it all the more important we beat Norwich this weekend. We don’t want to get sucked into a relegation battle when we don’t have a goalscoring striker.
Bruce and the board have at least been busy this month – bringing in Schalke 04 midfielder Nabil Bentaleb, Internazionale midfielder Valentino Lazaro and Tottenham Hotspur left-back Danny Rose, all on loan.
They’re all defensive though, which kind of sums up Steve Bruce’s tactics. Our defensive record is in the bottom half too, whilst Jonjo Shelvey is the only player to have scored more than two goals in our 24 Premier League games – he has five.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, at least not yet. Norwich City have won just one of their last 11 Premier League games (D4, L6) – that was a 1-0 win over a then grossly out-of-form Bournemouth side.
They have won both FA Cup games this month though – 4-2 away to Preston North End and 2- 1 at Burnley.
Daniel Farke’s side play an attacking game of football, so our defence will need to play like they did against Chelsea in our last home league game. Meanwhile, their defence has shipped the most goals this season – virtually two per game on average.
It would be great if Joelinton could score but I’ll take any goalscorer(s) this weekend as long as it gets us three points…