The Battle of the Hyperspenders has arrived.
Nothing explains Nott Forest’s situation better than a quick look at his list of arrivals this season. Including players loaned to the club, the Tricky Trees have added a freaking 40 men to their ranks this season. Seriously. I’m just counting names in the list linked above.
All of those transfers, whether the lads arrived via a loan, a free transfer, or a paid fee, have contributed to the current 14th-place Nott Forest in many different ways and shapes.
Some, such as the injured Dean Henderson, have played as many as 1,620 minutes this season. Other, such as veteran Andre Ayew, arrived late for free and have yet to find his footing (the French winger has appeared in six EPL games logging 151 minutes to date).
What cannot be argued is that Nott Forest went on to spend nearly €185m to sit just into the third quarter of all Premier League teams in their first season back in the English top-flight division.
Newcastle, as you very well know, spent... the same €185m between the summer and the winter windows but are currently placed in fifth with two games in hand on all four teams above them except Man Utd (one). Not bad!
The Magpies finally fixed their scoring woes last weekend when they put a couple of goals past Wolves to earn their first win in six attempts after drawing three straight EPL games and then proceed to lose two to giants from Merseyside (Red) and Manchester (Blue) with another Mancunian (Red) loss in the middle as they couldn’t beat the odds on their way to lifting the Carabao Cup a few weeks ago.
Nott Forest is a tiny team these days. They sit 14th but they’re just two points separated from 18th-place Bournemouth in relegation. A loss to Newcastle could make things very tough for them with 27 games played after this weekend and entering the international break.
The Tricky Trees won’t be able to count on ever-present forward Chris Wood—injured and banned from playing against Newcastle—but they will have the chance of deploying former Magpie Jonjo Shelvey in the middle of the park.
The last time Steve Cooper’s lads took a football pitch was less than a week ago when they went on to face Tottenham and dropped the ball, losing 3-1 to the Spurs. That was obviously bad news for Newcastle, as they would have very gladly preferred to see their opponents this Friday enter the game having beaten UCL-favorite Tottenham instead of allowing the Londoners to put four points between them and NUFC in the standings before today’s matchup. Alas.
As bad as Newcastle had it scoring of late, Nott Forest’s goalscoring has been dreadful all season long with the men from Nottingham netting just 21 goals through 26 games against 47 goals allowed. That, for those of you math-handicapped, yields a -26 goal difference. That, also, is tied for the worst GD in the Premier League along with AFCB’s. Now you get why that 14th looks rather dubious, don't you?
Cooper will try to fix more than one wrong on Friday playing host to Newcastle, but that’s hard to see happen against this hella-strong Magpie Mob. Nott Forest is, simply put, closer to a Championship-level team than a Premier League squad, no matter how many Keylor Navases they have in their ranks.
Now, Newcastle better watch out this evening. Nott Forest might have won just six points in 13 games on the road, but they have also been unbeaten at home in nine consecutive games entering Friday. That’s bonkers, but that’s also as real as it gets. Only Man Red (12) seems to have a better run going these days if my information is correct.
So let’s hope the lads bring their full firepower, and can put at least gone goal past Navas as that would already feel insurmountable for a Forest team that scores fewer than one goal per game (LOL) in the Premier League.
Eddie Howe spoke to the media on Thursday providing some fresh takes on Newcastle’s state of affairs just hours before Friday’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 Tricky Trees are in, so let’s go through what could be coming from Newcastle’s Eddie Howe.
- Not Available: Krafth (knee), Joelinton (suspension), Gordon (ankle)
- Doubtful: —
- There might not be changes in the XI that started against Wolves at SJP less than a week ago, or we might be in for a nice reshuffling of Howe’s cards.
- One thing is clear, and that’s that two of the key players on this roster won’t be available today, although that was already known in advance: Joelinton will serve the second match of his two-game suspension and Anthony Gordon will be out this evening nursing his ankle injury. The former will return in April to face Man Utd, the latter’s return isn’t so easy to predict judging by Howe’s statements on his Thursday presser.
- Nick Pope will man the goalposts and for the love of God let’s hope he doesn’t commit any stupid mistakes or puts himself in danger such as last Sunday when he was this close to getting sent off once more.
- Tripps and Burn on the sides, Schar and Botman in the middle. That’s your defensive line. You should probably not expect any shocking surprise in terms of rotating pieces because while it is true that there are some fresh bodies on the bench—namely, captain Jamaal Lascelles and left-back Matt Targett—the real truth is that we’re about to enter a two-week hiatus with the international break/warm-weather training camp ahead and that will allow more than a few days of rest of the always-used, oft-starting players of Newcastle.
- The middle of the pitch is so barren of alternatives that with Joelinton and Gordon out the options are down to playing the usual suspects or introducing youngster Elliot Anderson, but not much more than that. I will believe it when I see it, so I don’t expect any three-man-unit other than the one built around Bruno, Longstaff, and Willock starting at The City Ground tonight.
- Last week, Jacob Murphy started on the right wing. Will that happen again on Friday? Let me guess that won’t be the case. Yes, Murphy was fantastic and had a nice outing. That said, the change screamed “ALERT” and was more of an attention call to the likes of Miguel Almiron and whatnot than a proper, solid, long-term change. It sparked a reaction, and that’s all that mattered then and now, so I expect Almiron—who, remember, scored the game-winning goal entering the pitch coming off the pine with a little over 20 minutes left in regulation—starting against Nott Forest today.
- Question marks are worth having when it comes to the starters on the left wing and at the striker position. Once and for all, Howe decided to drop an off-form Callum Wilson... and that decision turned in Alexander Isak’s best game of the season—by a good mile. Call me crazy, or my thinking premature, but Wilson seems more like an extraordinary off-the-bench option these days than a weekly starter. He’s sublime, don’t get me wrong, but he could very well be much more impactful coming in rested with just 20-to-30 minutes left in the game rather than playing from the get-go with all men on the pitch boasting a fresh pair of legs. Isak in for the second match in a row. Let’s go, Howe!
- With all of the above, the left-wing position gets solved by default with Allan Saint-Maximin starting there. And hey, it’s not that facing Nott Forest will demand him to keep his game grounded and focus on defense at any point, not even if the Tricky Trees found the back of Newcastle’s net as Newcastle should still be able to trump then in the scoreboard without sweating it.
CHN Predicted Lineup
DEF Trippier - Schar - Botman - Burn
MID Longstaff - Bruno - Willock
WNG Almiron - Saint-Maximin
An unchanged starting XI.— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) March 17, 2023
HOWAY NEWCASTLE! ⚫️⚪️ pic.twitter.com/nwScOBMezO
Nott Forest XI
- Date: Friday, March 17th
- Kick-off: 20:00 BST / 16:00 EST
- Location: The City Ground, Nottingham (England)
- Broadcasts: fuboTV (CAN) — NBC Sports App, USA Network, nbcsports.com (USA) — Sky Sports Premier League, Sky Ultra HD, SKY GO Extra, Sky Sports Main Event (UK)
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Howay the Lads!