Less than twelve months ago, Newcastle faced Leeds United away at Elland Road. It was January 22nd and the Magpies were still enduring a tough series of results and not playing to quite excellent extents.
The takeover which took place back in October 2021 was still in the early stages and it took a long time for the new organization and the results to start showing up. Leeds United, back then, were led by Marcelo Bielsa and looking to earn a third victory in a row facing NUFC at home.
Already in the late days of January, and with some added players via transfer, Newcastle deployed an XI that featured men such as Paul Dummett, Jonjo Shelvey, Ryan Fraser, and flashy acquisitions Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood.
Ultimately, Jonjo’s lone goal earned the Magpies three points on the road in their first away win of the season. It took Newcastle 10 games (D3, L6) to get there. Again, it was Jan. 22nd, 2022. It was the longest Newcastle had to wait to win one game away from SJP since the 2012-13 campaign when they didn’t pull off the feat until their 12th game on the road.
The times are-a-changin’ these days, ain’t they?
Newcastle is sitting pretty in third place on the Premier League table. They won’t close the calendar year any lower as they have built enough padding with fourth-place Tottenham for the Spurs to have no chance of reaching them no matter what happens today. A loss by Manchester City, paired with a victory by the Man in Black and White would see NUFC climb up to second.
Read that again if you need to.
NUFC have played 35 league games this year entering Saturday’s clash against Leeds. Newcastle have racked up 71 Premier League points, tied for the fifth-most before today’s slate—only on (a worse) goal difference, mind you.
A win on Saturday and a loss by Arsenal this upcoming matchday will leave both teams tied at 74 points in the third position only behind Man City and Liverpool on the calendar-year EPL table. Let that marinate for a minute.
Miguel Almiron has scored nine goals this season alone. He is one goal shy from becoming the second Paraguayan to hit double figures in a premier league season since Roque Santa Cruz did it first all the way back in 2007-08.
Callum Wilson has been banged up a lot and only appeared in 10 games yet he has six goals and a couple of assists. Bruno, Allan Saint-Maximin (just a bit over four full-90-minute matches played), and Trippier have all dished out three or more assists each.
Nick Pope has played every game and only allowed 11 for an average of 0.69 goals conceded per 90 minutes or an even better-looking 82.1% save rate having faced 56 shots on target saving 45 of them.
Forget about dreaming. This is an unadulterated, raw reality. Newcastle have joined the elite and are here to stay. Howay the lads!
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 Whites are in, so let’s go through what could be coming from Newcastle’s Eddie Howe.
- Not Available: Isak (calf), Shelvey (calf), Krafth (knee), Dummett (calf)
- Doubtful: Wilson (illness)
- It is not crazy that we’re here thinking about Newcastle’s upcoming lineup while already looking ahead to next Tuesday’s game. That’s reasonable and something that any and every professional and serious club with a plan should and must always do.
- What is crazy is that we’re thinking about it because Newcastle’s next opponent is Arsenal, which sits first in the Premier League, and it might actually make sense for Howe to give some of his players a rest ahead of a game against a legitimate opponent instead of the minnow Leeds are now from Newcastle’s title-contending angle.
- Think about it for a minute, because the change of mentality in a span of 10 months is the wildest ever experienced around Tyneside. Once upon a time, Newcastle’s fans would be thinking about just throwing away the game against Arsenal—considering it a lost cause in advance and an inevitable defeat anyway—by using the strongest possible XI against Leeds to at least put on a fight for a draw or a dreamed-of win.
- Today, Newcastle fans are thinking about using a subpar XI, winning the game anyway with the reserves, preserving some of the most talented players in the squad for that game against the Gunners, and fighting Arsenal to the final whistle in an attempt to inch closer to them in the table. Bonkers.
- Don’t get Leeds wrong, though. While the Whites are coming off a couple of EPL losses, the truth is that those two defeats happened against Man City and Tottenham. They defeated Liverpool and Bournemouth back-to-back before the break, so watch out.
- Newcastle won’t field many changed players because everybody is fit, ready to play as much as possible, and coming off a World Cup break that didn’t really hurt the squad chemistry, not fitness. Those staying didn’t suffer any problem barring Alexander Isak’s little setback, and those going to Qatar didn’t have to play massive minutes away from Newcastle with Fabian Schar the only regular.
- Jonjo Shelvey is out for up to two months, which makes the midfield a tight unit again with fewer options to pick from available for Howe. It’s going to remain a trio of Longstaff, Bruno, and Willock in midfield as long as Joelinton mans the left wing.
- The only viable/surefire rotational option would be to drop Joelinton to the middle of the park subbing one from the aforementioned trio and inserting ASM on the left wing on offense with little (if any) defensive assignments.
- Other than that, the lineup is hella chalky and won’t change just one bit. Chris Wood plays in relief of Callum Wilson if he really isn’t available, but the minute he is deemed fit/healthy enough to play he’ll be launched straight into the starting XI.
- The only line having an abundance of options available is the defense. Leeds are mediocre at scoring goals with 23 on the season and the 10th-most xG (20.9) on the year. Their xGD is at a minus-3.5 over the year and minus-0.24 per 90 minutes. Newcastle is a near-lock to bag at least one goal, so even if the Magpies use a subpar defensive line (say, one featuring Jamaal Lascelles and Matt Target) odds are they end up scoring once and earning one point at the very least. Howe might rest Schar or Dan Burn as those are the ones having the most natural replacements, but other than that it’s hard to see any other change take place.
CHN Predicted Lineup
DEF Trippier - Schar - Botman - Burn
MID Longstaff - Bruno - Willock
WNG Almirón - Joelinton
- Date: Saturday, December 31st
- Kick-off: 15:00 BST / 10:00 EST / 8:00 PST
- Location: St James’ Park, Newcastle (England)
- Broadcasts: fuboTV (Canada) — BBC Radio 5 Live (UK) — nbcsports.com, USA Network, UNIVERSO NOW, UNIVERSO, NBC Sports App, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA)
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Howay the Lads!