To say this game is absolutely massive would be an understatement.
I sometimes think the phrase ‘must-win’ is overused in football, yet this feels like one that could really make or break our survival bid. It’s a relegation six-pointer if I ever saw one.
Win and we’ll be out of the relegation zone at Watford’s expense and in a better position to attract new signings over the coming weeks, but lose and we’ll have on a real mountain to climb; not only to get out of the bottom three but also to attract quality players to join our fight for survival.
The good news is that new signings Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood look set to be fit and available to start following their arrivals from Atletico Madrid and Burnley, respectively.
Both will add proven ability at Premier League level, invaluable experience, leadership and hopefully give those around them the boost we so badly need after that humiliating FA Cup defeat to Cambridge last weekend.
As for Watford, they’ve lost seven games on the spin – the longest losing streak in any of Europe’s top five leagues – and have failed to keep a clean sheet all season.
They have, however, lost just ONE of their last 11 meetings with Newcastle United, so we’ll have to hope (and pray!) recent history hasn’t repeated itself come 5pm on Saturday as we all spill out of St James’ Park.
Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood could make their Premier League debuts for the club, however it looks like this one may come too soon for Jamal Lewis and Paul Dummett, with Howe also confirming that there’s still a few Covid cases at the club.
Callum Wilson remains out with a calf injury, with Isaac Hayden also ruled out after knee surgery and Federico Fernandez expected to miss out once again.
Emmanuel Dennis, Ben Foster, Kiko Femenía and Christian Kabasele are all in contention after returning to training. New signings Hassane Kamara, Edo Kayembe and Samir are also in contention for the trip to St James’ Park.
Predicted line ups
Martin Dubravka – There are some doubts about his fitness, as he has struggled with a toe injury. Freddie Woodman and Karl Darlow haven’t been seen in training pictures, which means we need our number one to be fit. He has made some mistakes, but we need him this weekend.
Kieran Trippier – The new signing will be one of the first names on the team sheet for the rest of the season. He played well last weekend and we need him to remain at that consistent level for the rest of the campaign. His delivery from set pieces will be key this weekend.
Jamaal Lascelles – The captain has been seen in training pictures, so he is fit to start. We don’t have many centre backs available and we have failed to sign one. Lascelles needs to play well on Saturday.
Fabian Schar – There is a doubt about his availability, but if he is fit, he should start. Eddie Howe likes him. His on-ball ability will be important in building attacks for us.
Matt Ritchie – Due to Manquillo’s suspension and the injuries to our two left backs, it is likely Matt Ritchie will be asked to play left back again. That could prove to be a real problem if he is targeted by Emmanuel Dennis.
Ryan Fraser – After signing Chris Wood, it makes no sense not to start Ryan Fraser. He is one of the best crossers in the squad and he has been improving under Howe. This is a great opportunity for him to start delivering in the final third.
Sean Longstaff – Last weekend was disappointing for Longstaff, but he is likely to start on Saturday. Isaac Hayden’s injury and Joe Willock’s poor form means that he is the best option to partner Shelvey.
Jonjo Shelvey – Heis one of Eddie Howe’s favourites. It is likely that we will have more of the ball than Watford and he has the quality to get our attacking players the ball quickly. That could be important tomorrow.
Allan Saint-Maximin – This is a game where we need Saint-Maximin to show up and deliver. He has been poor in recent weeks and some have questioned his commitment. Despite this, he is still our more dangerous attacking player.
Joelinton – Joelinton could start in a fluid role on Saturday. He will likely be named as a partner for Chris Wood in attack, but he will have the license to drop into midfield when required.
Chris Wood – Despite picking up a knock for Burnley last weekend, he has been in training since joining the club. We need him to hit the ground running on Saturday. His physical presence should really help us against Watford.
Watford XI (4-3-3): Foster – Femenia, Cathcart, Samir, Kamara – Kayembe, Sissoko, Cleverley – Dennis, King, Joao Pedro.
I’m nervous about this one – it’s impossible not to be for such a huge game – but I also believe we have the momentum against a Watford side who’ve been in free fall.
Starting well could be key to the crowd from getting edgy, however I think we just might on the back of two new signings likely to give us an immediate boost.
Wood to bully their feeble back four, Trippier to back an assist and Eddie Howe’s Mags to come away with the all important three points!
Prediction: Newcastle 2-1 Watford
HOWAY THE LADS!