Newcastle United and Leeds wrapped their 2022 calendar year with a stalemate. They met on New Year’s Eve and all they did was, well, nothing. Factually, there was a football game played at St James’ Park. But that was it, because no team could score a goal on a very rainy day that surely was one for both home and visiting sets of supporters to forget.
Things followed a similar pattern for a few weeks with the Magpies drawing five of six games Premier League games starting with that tie against the Whites. After that run (and back-to-back losses) things changed mightily and for the better, with Newcastle not drawing any single game since they last did on Feb. 11th and winning eight of their last 10 top-flight matches.
Not quite the same has gone on for Leeds, though. The poor lads have won one point of a possible 18 in their last six games. All they’ve been positively able to do was get a 1-1 draw against relegation-bound Leicester at the end of April. Not looking good for Leeds or the newly appointed Sammy Allardyce.
Howe took to the microphones and addressed the most pressing questions by the media on Friday one day before the Magpies go on the road for the game at Leeds scheduled for Saturday, May 13th.
Howe started his press conference all hyped out, saying that he’s pumped about what is awaiting Newcastle at Elland Road tomorrow.
“We’re looking forward to it. We know it’s going to be a great occasion and a great atmosphere. We need to be ready for what’s going to come.”
“It’s going to be a really important start to the game. I think the first 15/20 minutes will have a huge impact on what’s going to happen afterwards.”
To calm him down a bit, Howe was asked about whether or not he’d be disappointed if he and the lads ultimately fail to clinch a top-4 spot in the standings. And the manager offered an honest answer.
“I’d have to probably say yes. But I don’t want to focus on the negative. We are where we are and we want to consolidate that.”
Flowers were given to the whole team by Eddie, which is never bad to hear coming from the main man in charge.
“The lads have been incredible in every game bar one or two this season. They’ve given me absolutely everything.”
“Now we have four games to try to consolidate all of that effort to achieve something remarkable.
“That’s what we’re looking to do, just keep our nerve, keep doing what we’re doing and hopefully it will be enough.”
The most important news about Saturday’s matchup against Leeds surely involves the Magpies' midfield and Sean Longstaff in particular. The gaffer offered an (ominous) update on the Academy product ahead of the game.
“He went to see a specialist and I think there was a few concerns that there’s some structural damage in his foot but there wasn’t which is good news.”
“There is a bit of damage to one of the ligaments. He’s being re-scanned today which we hope will show an improvement. It’s unclear when he’ll be back but it’s not a long term issue.”
No bueno, hermanos. Sean is about to miss this game and most probably all of the remaining matches unless there is a superbly great recovery in his (very) near future that helps him make it to the pitch without putting his short/mid/long-term future in peril. Newcastle are playing for UCL football through the next four games, but I’d be cautious when it comes to risking further injuries and setbacks, honestly. Knowing Howe, he will probably do the same and keep Longstaff on the shelves.
More bad news related to injuries, which seem to be blasting Newcastle of late...
“Matt Ritchie has picked up a knee injury.”
“I don’t think it’s too bad but I think it will keep him out for the rest of the season.”
That’s correct, the squad has now lost two players in one fell swoop. Ugh.
Even though Ritchie is done for the year, Howe spoke highly of him and he expects Matty to remain in the organization for a while.
“Matty still has a very strong desire to play. His personality around the place, he’s very positive and high energy. He’s got a lot of energy to give. He’s managed that brilliant this year and trained harder than any other player.”
“I’ve said many times Ritchie’s hugely important behind the scenes. He’s a really good role model. He’s used his leadership really effectively for us this season.”
“I would love him to continue his journey with Newcastle next year but there will be conversations to take place before that happens.”
How acknowledged that he whiffed with his decision to play both Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak together for the first time from the get-go in the pivotal game against Arsenal last weekend. He never liked that plan in principle, but he went with it nonetheless succumbing to the media and fanbase pressure. It backfired, so he offered his thoughts about what happened.
“They were on the pitch together but they weren’t a partnership as such.”
“I saw enough from Alex, who played well I thought, to know he can play in that position and I know Callum in the number nine role is an outstanding player.”
“[Playing both together] is something I’ll definitely consider.”
Let me doubt that for a minute, Howe... Big Sam might fall for the trick, but you aren’t fooling us true supporters and NUFC fans after you’ve been there picking lineups for over a year and a half.
The Whites sit second-to-last in the Premier League table and they face a must-win challenge this weekend. Any loss here paired with wins by Leicester City, Everton, and/or Nott Forest might prove fatal for Leeds in their attempt to avoid relegation for the second year running.
Leeds won’t be able to use any of season-long casualties Luis Sinisterra, Tyler Adams, and Stuart Dallas while Liam Cooper will also sit this one out only hoping to reappear later this month in a last-minute attempt to bolster the Whites' chances at staying in the English top-flight division.
Rodrigo scored Leeds’ only goal in their loss against Man City last weekend, and that might actually be enough for him to take a place in the XI, although that’s not a lock to happen with Patrick Bamford eligible and available. Other than that, the other battle to watch will take place under the goalposts after Sammy D decided to go with veteran Joel Robles instead of youngster Illan Meslier. Whoever gets the GK call, we can guarantee will eat a bunch of Magpie goals. Uh, oh.
- Date: Saturday, May 13th
- Kick-off: 12:30 BST / 7:30 EST
- Location: Ellan Road, Leeds (England)
- Broadcasts: fuboTV (CAN) — nbcsports.com, USA Network, SiriusXM FC, NBC Sports App (USA) — BTSport.com, BBC Radio 5 Live, BT Sport 1, BT Sport Ultimate, BT Sport App (UK)
For all your international watching needs, check LiveSoccerTV.com.