Saturday’s Premier League action rounds off with a mouth-watering clash between Newcastle United and Manchester United at St James’ Park.
Despite lacking a dozen first-team stars, Eddie Howe nearly masterminded a group-stage double over Paris Saint-Germain in midweek Champions League action.
Alexander Isak’s first-half opener was the difference between the sides heading into stoppage time before a controversial VAR call gifted a penalty to Kylian Mbappe, who made it 1-1.
UEFA stripped VAR official Tomasz Kwiatkowski of his duties immediately after the game. Yet it was no consolation for the Magpies, whose hopes of advancing to the knockout stage are now slim.
Newcastle return to Premier League action this weekend, bidding to recover from an unjust result in Paris and build on last weekend’s 4-1 demolition of Chelsea.
Man United’s visit brings back fond memories, with Howe’s team outclassing the Red Devils in the League Cup earlier this season, running out 3-0 victors at Old Trafford.
Avenging that disastrous performance is not the only motive for Erik ten Hag’s underachievers to get a result on Tyneside as they faltered in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Galatasaray hauled back a two-goal deficit to hold United to an enthralling 3-3 draw at Rams Park, landing a potentially fatal blow on the Manchester outfit’s chances of reaching the round of 16.
They will have to beat Group A leaders Bayern Munich on the final matchday and hope the Turks will share the spoils with Copenhagen to secure a runner-up finish.
Since it’s a pipe dream, Man United must make amends on the domestic front.
The aforeementioned thumping of Chelsea was a perfect response to a dismal 2-0 defeat at Bournemouth, keeping Newcastle within a five-point distance of fourth-placed Aston Villa.
Imperious form at St James’ Park has been the main ingredient behind the Magpies’ top-four push as they’ve racked up six wins in their seven home league outings this term (L1), winning the last five in a row.
Newcastle’s defensive resilience on Tyneside has been off the charts, with only Liverpool’s tally of two home goals conceded bettering their record of four.
On that basis, the fact five of their last six domestic wins on home turf have come ‘to nil’ is no surprise, which has incidentally been the case in five of their six home league triumphs against Man Utd this century.
St James’ Park has historically been a happy hunting ground for the Red Devils, but the narrative has changed in recent years, with United going winless on three of their last four visits to this venue (D1, L2).
Now is the ideal time to turn the tables on Newcastle. Ten Hag’s men have won their last four top-flight games on the road, including an emphatic 3-0 victory against Everton in the previous round.
But despite sitting atop the Premier League form table across the past six matchdays (W5, L1), United’s wins have often lacked conviction, with only one yielding a multiple-goal margin.
Ten Hag wouldn’t mind another narrow success, knowing it would see Man Utd at least temporarily whittle down the gap on the coveted fourth place to a single point.
Significantly weakened by injuries, Newcastle will be without Harvey Barnes, Sven Botman, Callum Wilson, Dan Burn, Jacob Murphy, Javier Manquillo, Matt Targett, Joe Willock and Elliot Anderson.
Sandro Tonali is out due to a notorious eight-month suspension, but there’s a decent chance that Sean Longstaff could make the matchday squad after picking up an ankle injury.
As for Man Utd, Casemiro, Christian Eriksen, Tyrell Malacia, Lisandro Martinez, Mason Mount and Jonny Evans are still in the treatment room, while Jadon Sancho remains frozen out of the squad.
Newcastle United potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Nick Pope; Kieran Trippier, Fabian Schar, Jamaal Lascelles, Tino Livramento; Joelinton, Bruno Guimaraes, Lewis Miley; Miguel Almiron, Alexander Isak, Antony Gordon.
Manchester United potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Andre Onana; Diogo Dalot, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw; Scott McTominay, Kobbie Mainoo; Alejandro Garnacho, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford; Rasmus Hojlund.
We Say: Newcastle United 1-1 Manchester United
None of Newcastle’s ten competitive home matches this season have ended level (W8, L2). Likewise, Man Utd have won eight of their 13 league fixtures while losing the other five.
Some traditions are made to be broken, and given massive injury crises in both camps, this is almost inevitable.
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