Michael Owen has been looking ahead to Saturday’s game at St James Park.
At the start of the season, Newcastle fans would have expected to be above both Brighton and Huddersfield if they were going to have a comfortable season.
Instead, with 20 games played, the Magpies find themselves three points behind Brighton and five adrift of Huddersfield.
The two other promoted clubs taking full advantage of the £40m+ net transfer spends in the summer, almost four times higher than Newcastle’s £11.5m net spend.
Of course the single goal defeats for Newcastle at Brighton and Huddersfield have been key to the respective league positions of the three promoted clubs.
Whilst there has been much hot air about Rafa’s negative tactics against Manchester City, I do wonder if he now looks back at those Brighton and Huddersfield matches and thinks that those were two matches where he erred a little bit too much on the side of caution.
Playing in recent times against mainly better opposition (8 of the last 11 games have been against clubs in the top half of the table), Michael Owen points out that Newcastle have lost five successive home games. A horrific statistic for Rafa Benitez, a manager who had never previously lost consecutive home games in the Premier League in his entire career.
The last four of those defeats at St James Park were against Watford, Leicester, Everton and Manchester City, Brighton don’t have the quality that this quartet possess going forward.
However, they are no pushovers and whilst Michael Owen points out the Seagulls have lost their last four away games, they were playing Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United, with the fourth of those being a defeat away at Huddersfield – adapting surprisingly well to the Premier League uplift.
With Newcastle’s five home defeats and Brighton’s four away losses, Michael Owen predicts a victory for Rafa Benitez.
He also predicts a ‘tight, tense affair’ and Newcastle can take heart with the return of Jamaal Lascelles having tightened up a creaking defence, in the 14 matches he has started, including the Man City one, the Magpies have conceded one or less goals in 12 of them, with only two in each of the other pair (the win at West Ham and draw at Southampton).
With eight goals in the six games before Manchester City, Newcastle are also showing they carry a little bit more of a threat going forward as well.
With key players rested on Wednesday night, I find myself agreeing with Michael Owen for one, Newcastle have to win this one and I think they will.
Michael Owen talking to BetVictor:
“Newcastle have lost five successive home league games whilst Brighton have lost their last four away games without scoring a goal – something has to give at St James Park.
“Seagulls boss Chris Hughton has won just one of his seven games against his former club and I expect the hosts to edge what is likely to be a tight, tense affair.
“Prediction is Newcastle to win at 23/20.”
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