Mark Lawrenson has been looking ahead to Manchester United’s visit to St James Park.
Jose Mourinho revisiting a stadium where he has never won a Premier League match in his entire career in English football.
Lawrenson makes the point that Man Utd ‘easily saw off Huddersfield last weekend’.
Mourinho’s team did win 2-0 at Old Trafford but that has to be seen in the context of it being Huddersfield’s fifth defeat in a row, a run that includes both Stoke and West Ham easily beating them – the Hammers put four goals past the Terriers away from home.
Huddersfield’s last Premier League victory is actually fully eight weeks ago against Watford on 16 December.
As it happens, since that date Newcastle have only lost to champions-elect Manchester City in the league.
You can’t be confident of Rafa’s team necessarily winning but there can be confidence that a resilient Newcastle will put up a bigger fight than Huddersfield did last weekend.
Mark Lawrenson predicts ‘A classic Rafa Benitez performance at home against a top-six team – which is a bit like parking 10 buses, not just one.’
Whilst the tactics used against Manchester City were a ‘little’ extreme in both games, Newcastle were playing the team that are many levels above any other in the Premier League.
Against others in the top six, Newcastle haven’t employed such extreme tactics and indeed at both Chelsea and Manchester United, Rafa’s team took the initiative early on and took the lead both times. Only for poor defending to gift the opposition a route back in and eventual victory.
Jamaal Lascelles missed both of those matches and when he is in the side, Newcastle have a remarkable defensive record considering the limitations of the squad.
Lascelles has started 20 of NUFC’s 26 PL games and only the away game at Man City have Newcastle lost by more than one goal. In 17 of the 20 Lascelles starts, the team have only conceded one or zero goals.
Kenedy has already improved the team going forward, so if Slimani can do the same, there is plenty of room for optimism and just maybe the reality is that one or two of those buses will actually be parked up elsewhere.
Mark Lawrenson talking to BBC Sport:
“Newcastle have not won at home in the league since October and this fixture is not exactly helpful when it comes to them trying to improve on that poor run at St James’ Park.
“I did think the Magpies looked a little bit better going forward early on in their draw with Crystal Palace last weekend, but it did not really last.
“Kenedy, who has joined on loan from Chelsea, looked really good on the left too – but he was taken off before the hour mark and, by the end, Newcastle were hanging on for a point.
“It is hard to see Newcastle offering much more of a threat against a Manchester United side who easily saw off Huddersfield last weekend.
“Islam Slimani could make his debut and should give Newcastle more of a focal point in attack but I just think we might see a classic Rafa Benitez performance at home against a top-six team – which is a bit like parking 10 buses, not just one.
“Prediction is Newcastle 0 Man Utd 2.”
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