After a positive few days for Newcastle United both on and off the pitch, we finally come into a game with reasons to be hopeful.
The 2-0 win at Everton was not only a much needed end to an abysmal run of eleven games without victory, but by far our best display of the season and arguably our most convincing display under Steve Bruce.
Things just clicked. We worked hard, had a clear plan, pressed well, passed the ball confidently and created a host of big chances. After recently counting the hours since our last goal from open play, we finally got the best out of Wilson – who must be thinking he could’ve had a hat-trick.
Although we play a ‘poorer’ side tonight in Crystal Palace, we’re at home this time and face a team who may look to frustrate us and hit on the counter. That must NOT change the approach, however, with this game having the potential to pull us well clear of trouble….or throw us right back into the relegation mix should we go back to square one and see results go against us elsewhere.
New boy Joe Willock won’t feature after arriving on loan from Arsenal, but if those available show the energy, intent and ideas that were on display last weekend, I’d be confident of another win – and it’s not often I’ve felt like saying that this season!
Still, this is a tough one to call. Onward and upwards or Bruce-ball back to its worst? It’s a funny old feeling coming into a game simultaneously optimistic and aware of what came before that shock win at Everton!
- Ryan Fraser – Has suffered with sickness over the weekend. A ‘major doubt’ after failing to train in the build up to the game.
- Allan Saint-Maximin – ‘Ready to start’ after a few positive sub appearances and will likely replace an unwell Fraser.
- Jamaal Lascelles – Set to miss out after picking up a hamstring injury in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Everton.
- Clark & Dummett – Both are fit to return, but it’s the former who will be back in the starting XI in Lascelles’ absence.
- Federico Fernandez – Still another ‘few weeks’ away. Hasn’t featured since last month’s defeat at Sheffield United.
- Joe Willock – Not eligible to play and won’t have even trained with his new teammates by the time things kick off at St James’ Park!
For the hosts, Roy Hodgson says several unnamed members of his squad face fitness tests after suffering injuries against Wolves, so it’ll be interesting to see what side they name.
Predicted line up
(4-3-2-1): Darlow – Manquillo, Schar, Clark Lewis – Hendrick, Hayden, Shelvey – Almiron, Saint-Maximin – Wilson.
OUT – Lascelles and Fraser?
IN – Clark and Saint-Maximin?
Given how well we played on Saturday and the injury issues mentioned above, this may be the most straightforward predicted line up I’ve had to do so far this season.
Darlow should keep his place after a clean sheet and strong response to a shaky start at Goodison Park, however Lascelles’ injury and Fernandez’s prolonged absence means a fit-again Clark will almost certainly replace the skipper.
Elsewhere at the back, Schar proved he could play in a four-man defence with a towering display, Manquillo cemented his spot at right-back with a polished performance at both ends and Lewis also put in his best game for the club – bagging a brilliant late assist and looking more confident throughout.
The midfield will surely stay the same, even if Arsenal loanee will be eyeing one of the three roles that helped us control the game at Goodison Park last weekend!
In attack, Wilson will be looking to push his tally past the 10-goal mark, however he may have to do it without Fraser.
If illness does keep the former Bournemouth winger out of this one, we will surely see Saint-Maximin return alongside Almiron – who was tireless both on and off the ball at Everton.
Here’s a few ones to watch in Roy Hodgson’s Eagles side:
Ebere Eze – We were linked with the England U-21 talent before he completed a move to Palace and may now be regretting our decision not to sign him from QPR! An outstanding talent who glides with the ball, can beat a man, link the play and smash one in from 25-yards!
Wilfried Zaha – Palace’s main man – even if Eze has helped share the load in attack this season. His pace, power, trickery and direct running could cause problems on the counter, meaning Manquillo may need to be at his best again here!
Vicente Guiata – The Spanish stopper has just signed a new deal at Selhurst Pakr and will be looking to celebrate that with a clean sheet here! A brilliant shot stopper on his day who can be hard to beat when he’s in the mood.
My head is saying 1-1, but my heart and that ray of hope inside me thinks we’ll edge it against an Eagles side who might be relaxing a bit after that 1-0 win over Wolves moved them well clear of danger and into mid-table obscurity.
My fear is we’ll be unable to replicate what we produced on Saturday and come unstuck when facing a stubborn side who’ll sit deep and his on the counter.
That said, Palace haven’t always been that tough nut to crack this season and could struggle if Almiron and Wilson are not only at it but joined by the returning Allan Saint-Maximin.
For me it’ll come down to the midfield battle. If Shelvey can put in another assured display, Hendrick put in another surprisingly solid shift for the team and Hayden win his battles in front of the back four, we’ll give ourselves a very decent chance of securing rare back to back wins.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-1 Crystal Palace
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.