Paul Merson says that a team that loses the Stoke v Newcastle match ‘is in for a long season’.
After today’s game the two clubs will have 16 matches remaining, with Stoke currently in 15th place on 20 points, Newcastle 16th with 19 points.
However, it is so tight at the bottom, Swansea are 20th with 16 points and Southampton in 13th have only four points more, so three points for Stoke or Newcastle could make the league table look so much better.
Mark Hughes made seven changes at Chelsea on Saturday, his team hammered 5-0 with 21 shots for the home side, Stoke in return had one shot and not one corner. Hughes is gambling on it all turning out right today and Paul Merson has supported his decision.
The Sky Sports pundit says ‘There is no point playing your best team against Chelsea and giving your all and then losing 1-0.’
Rafa Benitez did the opposite on Saturday, having rested so many players against Manchester City he made seven changes and played his best team against Brighton.
They let him down with an insipid performance and now we wait to see what team he chooses to play, which to an extent could depend on how the various players have come out of that Brighton game physically.
Paul Merson say ‘Wow, this is what you call a big match.’ and has gone for a 2-0 win to Stoke City.
A lot of it today will come down to character and whoever is on the pitch for Newcastle, needs to show something similar to the game at West Ham.
Stoke are also one of the poorest teams in the division along with Newcastle and the Hammers, with Mark Hughes under severe pressure, a first goal for the Magpies and the crowd will turn on the home players and manager.
Happy new year…hopefully.
Paul Merson speaking to Sky Sports:
“Wow. This is what you call a big match.
“Whoever loses this is in for a long season.
“People will say it’s only three points but this is such a big game.
“Stoke were under severe pressure the last time they played at home and they managed to win (beat West Brom 3-1 nine days ago), and I am going to back them again to win this one.
“I called the Stoke rotation (made seven changes and got beat 5-0 at Chelsea) when I did my predictions last week. You have to pick games.
“I know it’s not nice for the fans and you don’t want to lose 5-0, but there is no point playing your best team against Chelsea and giving your all and then losing 1-0. Two games in two days is massive.
“People might say the players earn fortunes so of course they can do that, but it’s not that easy at all.
“You don’t see rugby players doing it. I know they are hitting people but footballers run a lot more so it is about resting.
“Prediction is Stoke 2 Newcastle 0.”
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