With a mounting injury list and a seriously fatigued squad, the two-week international break could not have come at a better time for Eddie Howe and his depleted squad. When the season resumes next week, the Toon face three games that will go a long way towards defining their season. Let’s take a look at those games and see how the Magpies’ opponents are shaping up.
Chelsea (H): November 25th 3pm
A few weeks ago, this would have seemed like a straightforward home game against a struggling opponent. But thanks to Chelsea’s improved form and the Toon’s injury crisis, this now looks like a very tricky assignment.
Mauricio Pochettino has finally got his team playing somewhere near to their potential, with the likes of Nicholas Jackson, Raheem Sterling and Enzo Fernandez coming to the fore. The emergence of Cole Palmer has also been a big plus point for the Blues. Due to a few fast withdrawals from the England squad, Palmer received his first international call up this week. The young midfielder is growing in confidence and will be a big threat next Saturday.
PSG (A): November 28th 8pm
Whilst memories of the incredible 4-1 home win over PSG are still fresh in the memory for Toon fans, that victory will count for very little if they lose in France next Wednesday. Two defeats to Dortmund have left the Magpies’ qualification hopes hanging by a thread. They need at least four points from their final two games, which means avoiding defeat in Paris is imperative.
That represents an incredibly tough task against a team that has conceded just once in seven home games this season. Unsurprisingly, Kylian Mbappe has been the star of the show, the striker has 15 goals in his 15 appearances so far. In the home tie, Howe’s game plan successfully kept Mbappe quiet, but doing so again in Paris will be an even tougher task.
Manchester United (H): December 2nd 8pm
Despite all the talk of a crisis at Old Trafford, United are actually the form team in the Premier League. Four wins in five have put Erik Ten Hag’s men in sixth place, one point above the Toon.
In reality, United have been lucky in some of those victories and their displays have been less than convincing. The wins over Fulham and Brentford were extremely fortuitous, whilst their Champions League displays have been generally poor. That being said, Ten Hag’s squad is full of quality players like Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Casemiro. So the Toon will need to be on top of their game to claim three points.
If you offered Eddie Howe a three game undefeated run, he would bite your hand off. Whilst a couple of players on the injury list may be available for the fixtures, the vast majority will still be absent. If Howe can somehow lead his team to a victory in Paris, plus 4+ points from the league fixtures it would present his biggest achievement yet as Newcastle boss.