Newcastle United will start yet another weekend of this 2015-16 Premier League season nestled nicely in the bottom three in the table. Many of the computer simulations out there still have us at greater than 50% to go down this season. Honestly, over the course of the season we haven't very much shown many reasons that we won't. Last weekend, however, is the outlier. New recruit Jonjo Shelvey shone in particular against West Ham, spraying passes all over the park. He provided crucial passes in the buildup to two goals in his first 15 minutes as a Newcastle player. If there is a hope upon which the Toon Army can hang their hats, it is the result earned against a West Ham side that started last weekend in the top five of the league.
This team still has problems. They aren't getting great production from their strikers. They can't keep a clean sheet. They're injured across the back and Jack Colback, everyone's favorite CM cum LB is out injured. There are plenty of questions as Steve McClaren and his men prepare to take on Watford for the third time this season (counting some random extra-league match that we played for some reason or another). With the club having lost both meetings to date this year, this is a perfect opportunity for a struggling club and manager to make a statement: "Sure, we've struggled. We're in a terrible league position and we've given the appearance of a club scratching for survival this year. We're getting it set straight, though... and we're starting it today." The club lost in their previous visit to Vicarage Road this year... to a half-strength Watford squad that was lacking Odion Ighalo among other first-choice pieces.
Jack Colback, Paul Dummett and Cheik Tiote will be out for various reasons, so it will likely be up to McClaren's hand-selected engine room of Jonjo Shelvey and Henri Saivet to lead the charge from the middle and prove that Newcastle are more than a club playing for 17th place... and that must start today.
Date & Time: January 23, 2016 1500 GMT (0700 PST, 1000 EST)
Venue: Vicarage Road, Watford, Hertfordshire
Players to watch: Jonjo Shelvey, Henri Saivet, Ayoze Perez
TV Information: none