Can Toon’s new recruits aid Premier League relegation fears?
Simon Sinclair | February 11, 2016
Toon on the rise?
Newcastle United earned a crucial win in their battle to beat the drop against West Bromwich Albion last week and will now turn their attentions to Premier League champions Chelsea.
Aleksandar Mitrovic notched the only goal of that game to lift the Magpies out of the bottom three, one point clear of 18th-place Norwich City.
Steve McClaren’s men will now look to secure back-to-back wins for only the second time during this testing Premier League term when they travel to Stamford Bridge.
The Magpies have a strong record against the Blues in recent years though, recording two victories at St James’ Park and back in 2012 at the Bridge when a brace from frontman Papiss Cisse steered the Tynesiders to a 2-0 triumph.
Chelsea have improved slightly under the tenure of Guus Hiddink, but are looking to end a run of four-straight draws at home in all competitions. However, Newcastle will have their sights set on stealing all three points in this vital meeting, which is backed at 6/1 with Coral.
Arrivals playing a key role
Newcastle spent big in the January transfer window to land the signatures of Andros Townsend, Henri Saivet and Jonjo Shelvey for around £30m in total.
Former Swansea City midfielder Shelvey made an instant impact for the Magpies by playing a crucial role in the club’s 2-1 win over West Ham United, and then their triumph over the Baggies last week.
The 23-year-old has become the heart of Newcastle’s midfield and provided strong link-up play between their central areas and frontline, which McClaren’s men lacked in the first half of this current campaign.
Townsend made an extremely promising debut for the club against West Brom, operating down the left flank, and was a constant threat using his pace to terrorise Tony Pulis’s men.
The 25-year-old could have opened his scoring account, only to be denied on the post, but has definitely showed that he will play a crucial role in the club’s quest for survival.
Both players make an interesting shout to score anytime against the Blues on Saturday, with Townsend 4/1 to dispatch and Shelvey 6/1 to strike respectively. Meanwhile, loan signing Seydou Doumbia could also play a part and is 11/4 get his name on the scoresheet.
Defending under the microscope
Newcastle surprised many of their passionate supporters with the failure to bolster their defensive options in January, despite their lack of numbers at the back.
The problems were exacerbated by Jamaal Lascelles’ dismissal against Everton and Chancel Mbemba’s injury sustained in the same outing.
As a result, Steven Taylor was pressed into action against the Baggies after his own lay-off to partner Fabricio Coloccini, while left-back Paul Dummett was also on the sidelines, which meant Jack Colback had to worryingly drop back into defence.
Newcastle managed to get by West Brom without much difficulty due to the negative tactics of Pulis, but they could be exposed defensively by Hiddink’s Blues and the daunting return to form of hitman Diego Costa.
McClaren will be concerned should his side’s injury problems persist at the back, which could be a potential death knell in their hopes to remain in the Premier League.
Both teams to score at 5/6 could be an enticing option at Stamford Bridge, considering Chelsea’s struggles this season as well.
Firing their way out of trouble
Due to the uncertainly at the back, Newcastle will place a lot of their hope in their forward players being able to fire them towards safety. Georginio Wijnaldum has been a revelation since his move from PSV Eindhoven last summer, and had no problem adjusting to life in the Premier League.
The 24-year-old has been his side’s match-winner on more than one occasion, none more so relevant than his four-goal display in the Magpies’ impressive win over fellow relegation battlers Norwich.
Deadly Dutchman Wijnaldum has notched nine goals in the top-flight, and McClaren will be looking to him for further scoring success as teammate Mitrovic has struggled at times with the heavy burden up front.
The Serbia international’s strike against West Brom displayed composure which has been all too rare this season. Mitrovic has managed just five goals this term, which will have disappointed the club considering the £13m outlay on his signature last summer.
However, should the 21-year-old fire the goals that lead the Tynesiders to safety, the deal and his first season in the Premier League will have been regarded as a great success, despite early blips.
Mitrovic is backed at 2/1 to notch another strike anytime on Saturday and 7/1 to score the first goal of the evening, while Wijnaldum has odds of 11/4 to find the net at the Bridge.
Newcastle managed to edge to survival last season and, with 13 matches left in this campaign, they will have to repeat those heroics.
The club’s home form has been their saving grace this season, as they have claimed 16 of their 24 points at St James’ Park.
However, they will also need to start picking up results on the road to provide a buffer between themselves and the bottom three.
McClaren’s men are backed at 13/8 to descend into the Championship, but are the fourth favourites for a daunting drop down divisions, which suggests that they may have just enough quality to survive for another season.