A little over seven years ago, Leicester City were crowned champions of the English Premier League. They didn’t even have to play their title-clinching game after Tottenham drew a match with Chelsea that ended in a 2-2 stalemate and awarded the Foxes their long-chased trophy.
Eden Hazard (remember him?) scored the final goal of that London derby, making it impossible for any title contender to reach Leicester’s point tally that deep into the campaign.
Hazard had yet to sign with Real Madrid—that would take three more years—and was a world-renowned player back then. Claudio Ranieri pulled off the impossible feat of lifting the Foxes all the way to first—he was sacked the next February and the elder is now plying his trade in Italy’s second-tier Cagliari. Jamie Vardy was a sensation, he’s now old and plain atrocious.
Leicester City. Champions of England. pic.twitter.com/WRwfysTn2N— Leicester City (@LCFC) May 2, 2016
Moral of the story: good times don’t last forever.
It’s impossible to travel back in time to the summer of 2016 with Leicester the flashy freshest champions of the best football league in the world and even start to entertain the possibility of a relegation-bound Foxes squad not even a decade later.
The same can be said about the Newcastle side from 2016, when the Magpies were, well... relegated to the Championship on 37 points through 38 games played. Yes, they couldn’t even crack the point-per-game barrier back then.
These new Magpies, though, have already earned 69 points in 36 games for an average of 1.91 points per game. Leicester, on the other hand, sit 19th entering Monday’s game with 30 points in 36 games. The most they aspire to is to get 36 points in 38 games—assuming they do the impossible once again, like in 2016, and defeat the remaining two teams in their schedule today and next weekend.
Back in May 2016, we were talking about how “returning to the EPL may not be the best target.” This weekend, we’re tweeting about a Champions League-bound Newcastle.
Of course, this is only the start of what we hope is a never-ending run. Look to the Cyan Side of Manchester. That’s what we really want this club to turn into—an unstoppable football machine ancillary financially-boosted by a committed group of owners and geared toward yearly excellence in the national competitions and also those played beyond the UK borders.
It’d be naive to say that going from fighting to fend relegation off a year ago to qualify for the Champions League just 12 months later is an evolutionary step to expect on a yearly basis. That’d be nonsensical, unreasonable, and simply put, impossible for even the greatest of teams. Hell, even Man City won the league this season with 85 points when they needed all of 93 last year.
Addition by subtraction, progression in regression. The goal should always be the same, and achieving it, the ultimate aim.
Newcastle look absolutely primed to keep going up and up with the sky—if anything—as their limit. Let’s advance one game at a time, put LCFC to the Championship bed, and go from there.
Truth be told, August and September can’t come soon enough. Bring the heat, Infantino. Our body is ready.
Howe took to the microphones and addressed the most pressing questions by the media on Friday, a few days before the Magpies host the Foxes at St James’ Park for the final home game of NUFC this season in a match scheduled for Monday, May 22nd.
You can read everything Howe had to say here, as part of our pre-match coverage.
FotMob.com prediction at the upcoming Starting XIs from the Magpies and the Foxes is in, so let’s go through what could be coming from Newcastle’s Eddie Howe.
- Not Available: Krafth (knee), Lascelles (hamstring), Ritchie (knee), Longstaff (ankle), Willock (hamstring)
- Doubtful: Joelinton (knock), Murphy (groin)
- What a ridiculous performance by the lads a week ago in the game against Brighton, wasn’t it? After all of the drama and the nerves and the anxiety leading up to a high-stakes game, Howe worked his magic, brought Miguel Almiron back to the starting lineup for the second game in a row, went with the once-dreaded Alexander Isak-Callum Wilson pairing from the get-go, and demolished the Seagulls 4-1 in front of the Magpies faithful.
- Miggy assisted Wilson to put the deciding 3-1 on the scoreboard. Wilson then assisted Bruno two minutes later for the final 4-1. Hell, even Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn connected in the 2-0 at the end of the first half.
- In other words: it’s not Howe Magic, it’s just an extraordinary team putting together great outings on a weekly basis. It is a collective effort, making it look easy and feel like whatever choices the gaffer makes, they would just work wonders on any given day. It’s not that Howe’s making wild changes or attempting anything crazy, but the tinkering, while small is very worth it and delivering results in bunches—just peep at the table and don’t pinch yourself in amazement, it’s been 36 games so this is not a fluky mirage.
- Leicester are fighting to stiff relegation off, or at least to delay the worst possible outcome for as much possible. Everton, playing on Saturday and drawing their second-to-last game of the season against Wolverhampton with a 99th-minute goal by Yerry Mina, were able to get a vital point that put them three above Leicester entering Monday and left the Toffees with a path toward avoiding relegation—they have a six-goal deficit to LCFC, though, so they’d go down in the event of a tie in the standings if Leeds moves above them and into 16th.
- There is not a lot to say about Leicester’s goal here, honestly. They need to win but they can afford to not go crazy with the goals they have to score because they have positive and substantial margins of error in the goal-difference column (-18) compared to Everton (-24) and Leeds (-25) with one game to go. That might be a problem for Newcastle if Leicester find a way to score early and go with a low block throwing 11 bodies inside their own box for the remainder of the game. Whether they can hold onto that lead or not is another entirely different story.
- It’s slim pickings for Eddie Howe and NUFC in the midfield positions. Hard to see Steady Eddie changing his formation ever (although a 4-4-2 would fit the available players best), let alone this late in the season, so there will be an open hole in the middle of the park with Sean Longstaff and Joe Willock out for this game—and most probably next weekend too.
- You can pencil in Bruno and (maybe, as it’s reported lately that he’s banged up a bit) Joelinton in the starting XI. Other than the Brazilian duo, nothing is chalky.
- Howe can opt to go with Anthony Gordon from the get-go playing behind whoever mans the right wing on offense, kinda in a mid-right box-to-box role more geared toward offensive than defensive duties. He could also opt for the more natural and better-suited (yet more limited player overall on a pure skill-set basis) Elliot Anderson.
- In the aforementioned 4-4-2, Howe could just use Joelinton and Bruno in the middle with two wingers and two forwards more center. Of course, that’d mean playing Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson in the forward line together in a nearly-unheard-of system barely (if ever, and just in the final minutes of this or that game) used by Newcastle under Howe this season.
- No matter what happens in the middle, it looks like Miguel Almiron has done enough of late to regain the trust of Howe after returning from his earlier-season injury. He should keep starting because he’s fresh as he’s ever been and spry as always whenever he graces a football pitch.
- Leicester are tied for the third-most goals conceded (67) this season and the Foxes also have the sixth-worst xGA (60) in the whole Premier League. It shouldn’t be hard for Newcastle to find the net on Monday. Could that mean Howe only uses one of Isak/Wilson and opens a role on the left wing for Allan Saint-Maximin to make a comeback into the starting XI?
- With Newcastle playing Champions League football and getting a financial boost (around €85m) because of that, reinforcements are coming. That, though, would force some players out of the club if only to keep the accounts healthy and stay within the Financial Fair Play constraints. At some point, NUFC will need to showcase their players so other clubs bite and bid for them. We’ve heard some whispers about UCL finalists Inter Milan’s interest in ASM. What if Howe decides to start dangling him in front of other European powerhouses ahead of next season, starting this week?
- I’m all for some sales even if some might hurt the deepest places of my heart. So, yes, I’m envisioning Saint-Maximin starting this match with Alexander Isak the lone striker, and Callum Wilson coming off the pine in the second half to bag himself another one—because Wilson.
CHN Predicted Lineup
DEF Trippier - Schar - Botman - Burn
MID Anderson - Bruno - Joelinton
WNG Almiron - Saint-Maximin
- Date: Monday, May 22nd
- Kick-off: 20:00 BST / 15:00 EST
- Location: St James’ Park, Newcastle (England)
- Broadcasts: fuboTV (CAN) — nbcsports.com, SiriusXM FC, NBC Sports App, USA Network (USA) — Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Ultra HD, SKY GO Extra, Sky Sports Premier League, TalkSport Radio UK (UK)
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Howay the Lads!