It feels like a million years ago we were all upset and sad about the Premier League entering hibernation... but here we are with the best competitive football in the world back on our schedules for Boxing Day on this cold Monday, Dec. 26.
It’s been a mouthful of late. Speaking of both football and dishes, of course. But the best is still to come with the second half of the season and the New Year’s Eve/New Year festivities and food menus yet to be unveiled and enjoyed.
Just in case you focused too much on last month’s World Cup, let me calm you down a bit as we’re here first and foremost bleeding black and white ink and coming with a handy recap of everything that took place in the Magpie World over the past few weeks and months.
If you remember (or if you don’t) Newcastle’s folks packed their bags back in mid-November to either go home or fly to Qatar. Of course, they did so by leaving the third-place seat on the Premier League’s table scorching hot. Naysayers will come at you saying that the Toon have played 15 games instead of 14 and all other types of bullshit. Don’t pay attention, they’re just bitter and jealous.
The Magpies are entering Monday’s game having not lost a game since late August when the ref decided to test the extra-time rules to be used at the World Cup and added 17 minutes or something at the end of the second half.
Anyway. Things are even better if you look at the fine details. Newcastle have won every single game they have played from Oct. 19 included. That’s nine games including friendlies, seven without them, four Premier League and two Carabao Cup outings. Those matchups included opponents such as powerhouses in the vein of Al-Hilal and Chelsea. Those are two recent dominant league champions right there. No joke, folks.
Newcastle, though, have looked much better than them of late. The Magpies are putting on the strongest possible run and assuredly fighting for a place in next year’s Champions League. If they fail at earning that top-four finish, then it’d be Europa League qualification. And if the unthinkable happens, then they would still fall to the third-tier Conference League. Seriously, we have not even reached the 2023 calendar year and this is already a European-competition-bound team, lads.
And all of that has been achieved (for the largest part) without having Alexander Isak and/or Allan Saint-Maximin available for good chunks of play. The former is still out of today’s game and a few more ahead. The latter is available and is coming off dancing around the poor souls of Bournemouth.
Other than those two, the team is as fit as it’s ever been and pretty much the same you know from this season’s early days. Emil Krafth is done for the year, Matt Ritchie and Paul Dummett are out injured (though they are clearly a level or six below this team’s true talent so it doesn’t matter), and Elliot Anderson/Ryan Fraser are hella fit and back available.
Honestly, everything looks rosy.
Eddie Howe spoke to the media on Friday providing some fresh takes on Newcastle’s state of affairs just hours before today’s game.
You can read everything Howe had to say here, as part of our pre-match coverage.
FotMob.com predictions at the upcoming Starting XIs from the Magpies and the Foxes are in, so let’s go through what could be coming from Newcastle’s Eddie Howe.
- Not Available: Isak (thigh), Krafth (knee), Ritchie (calf), Dummett (calf)
- Doubtful: —
- Facing Chelsea in the last game before leaving for Qatar, Newcastle couldn’t afford to rotate the squad in the very slightest of ways back in November. They came back to competitive play last Tuesday facing Bournemouth in the Carabao and Eddie Howe didn’t rest anyone, using the strongest possible XI and leaving a couple of available/fit, old-times-starters in Jonjo Shelvey and ASM sitting on the bench. With the exception of Joe Willock, all other men in the starting lineup a week ago played at least 76 minutes. Yes, that included all Qatar internationals.
- Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier, Callum Wilson, Fabian Schar, and Bruno returned to Newcastle ahead of the Carabao Cup clash against Bournemouth. None advanced past the World Cup quarter-finals, yes, but even then it might have made sense for Howe to give them some rest. No, sir. All of them started and played a lot of minutes at the top of their levels. Fantastic development! They are guaranteed to start again today.
- Dan Burn and Sven Botman are two players that missed on their respective nations' World Cup squads for different reasons but who could have very well made the cut. I’m sorry, but I don’t entirely think making that statement could be labeled as being a homer. Burn ranks inside the 93rd-or-higher percentile in touches on the attacking penalty area, defensive clearances, and aerials won (all per 90 minutes). Botman ranks so high at everything that I will let you be the judge:
- Where there were doubts in the past, there are now solid weekly starters. It’s incredible how the trifecta of Joe Willock, Bruno, and Sean Longstaff has worked and improved their outcomes as their minutes together have kept piling up over the last year. There was a time when I (and probably a lot of other members of the Toon Army) thought about Jonjo Shelvey as the best available midfielder donning Magpie threads then and projected him to retain the starting gig forever. How things change... Shelvey is good, mind you, but limited. The current trio is going nowhere at least until/unless a new long-wanted no. 6 arrives in Newcastle.
- And if that’s the case in the middle of the park, what about the forward line and the ridiculous development of Joelinton (from pure Brazilian striker, to industrial defensive midfielder, to box-to-box man, and now to do-it-all winger) and the renaissance of Miguel Almiron having now scored eight goals while assisting one more? Every fan of this team might have believed (more or less) in Joelinton and Miggy in the past, but deep down their hearts all were praying for Newcastle to sign proper/better replacements. One of them, Allan Saint-Maximin, is now considered bench fodder with how impressively great the other two have been through the past 14 months of play.
- The calls for a right-wing/forward acquisition have not been needed with how unplayable Miggy has been this season. Yes, there is Alexander Isak sitting on the shelves and that might pose a nice conundrum for Howe when it comes to reshuffling the starting lineup, but you can still make a one-for-one change of now-starting Callum Wilson for Isak and that would still leave both Joelinton and Almiron starting on the wings.
- Sucks for ASM because he brings some magic every time he touches the ball and his lack of defensive chops are now less worrying considering how solid the defensive line has looked all year long. At the end of the day, though, it’s a bit of a first-world problem for Howe who has multiple legitimately great options available on a weekly basis and can start thinking about health-managing his squad properly for the last five months of the season and the time in May when the stakes will be at their highest.
- Do you remember which team pulled off the last true Premier League upset? The same team Newcastle are facing today. Keep going, dreaming, believing, and overachieving.
CHN Predicted Lineup
DEF Trippier - Schar - Botman - Burn
MID Longstaff - Bruno - Willock
WNG Almirón - Joelinton
- Date: Monday, December 26th
- Kick-off: 15:00 BST / 10:00 EST / 8:00 PST
- Location: King Power Stadium, Leicester (England)
- Broadcasts: fuboTV (Canada) — TalkSport Radio UK, Amazon Prime Video (UK) — nbcsports.com, SiriusXM FC, NBC Sports App, UNIVERSO NOW, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo, USA Network, UNIVERSO (USA)
For all your international watching needs, check LiveSoccerTV.com.
Please do not share or discuss links to illegal streams here.
Howay the Lads!