Is this the most important Newcastle United match of the season, so far?
It is Newcastle v West Ham up next.
Which for me is arguably the most important NUFC match of the season, so far.
Let me explain.
Leaving aside the Carabao Cup excitement for the moment, when it comes to Newcastle United and the battle for Premier League top four, this is really where we get to the key period that could decide which direction Eddie Howe’s side head in.
This is how the Premier League table currently looks on Thursday morning ahead of the weekend’s matches:
Now into February and Newcastle United in third place, still one of the four favourites to be in the Champions League places come the end of the season.
I see Newcastle v West Ham as key to what now happens, not just this weekend, but what then also flows afterwards.
This is the full weekend Premier League match schedule:
Friday 3 February
Chelsea v Fulham (8pm)
Saturday 4 February
Everton v Arsenal (12.30)
Aston Villa v Leicester (3pm)
Brentford v Southampton (3pm)
Brighton v Bournemouth (3pm)
Man U v Palace (3pm)
Wolves v Liverpool (3pm)
Newcastle v West Ham (5.30pm)
Sunday 5 February
Forest v Leeds (2pm)
Tottenham v Man City (4.30pm)
This is the dangerous time for Newcastle United, as it is now or never for both Liverpool and Chelsea to launch their belated assaults on the top four places, whilst Tottenham have become more of a potential threat again.
Assuming just for the moment that Newcastle United lost to West Ham and all the other worst case scenarios (results) happened (in my opinion).
You would have Chelsea (if beating Fulham) seven points behind Newcastle and of course their latest outrageous recruitment available to Graham Potter, whilst if Liverpool won at Wolves they would be seven points adrift of NUFC and the scousers having a game in hand.
A Tottenham win over Man City would actually see them go level on points with Eddie Howe’s team, although Spurs having played one more game.
I’m not disrespecting Fulham but in this scenario, if they lost at Chelsea, then I think you have two other ‘less fashionable’ threats potentially becoming more of a…threat to Newcastle United.
Brentford and Brighton very likely to win their home games this weekend and if combined with defeat for Newcastle against West Ham, the Bees would go six points behind NUFC and the Seagulls only five points AND with a game in hand on Eddie Howe’s team.
Whilst if Man U win at home to Palace, they would go three points clear if Newcastle lost this weekend.
That is the bad news scenario of course, now the positive stuff.
Newcastle United just have to hold their nerve.
I know both NUFC players and fans have to refocus after the excitement / drama of qualifying for Wembley but they have been handed surely one of the best possible fixtures to do so.
No disrespect to West Ham but they are a real mess this season. On their travels they won at Villa back in August, when they (Villa) were in freefall but away from home, other than that sole win, the only points for David Moyes on the road have been draws at fellow relegation strugglers Leeds and Southampton. The Hammers losing their other seven PL away games.
As for general PL form recently, West Ham won their last game. However, it was against surely what are now the worst team in the Premier League, Everton. It was a home game where anything but a win for West Ham would have been a disaster.
Ahead of that game though, their last seven PL matches had brought that draw at Leeds, but defeats to Palace, Wolves, Man Utd, Brentford, Arsenal and Leicester.
Bruno Guimaraes will be missing and Alexander Isak likely to be out as well, though no official confirmation of that (Isak) that I have seen. However, both Anthony Gordon and Harrison Ashby are now added to Eddie Howe’s options.
I think most of the other results this weekend will go against Newcastle United (though I don’t expect Spurs to beat Man City and I think realistic to hope / expect Liverpool don’t win at Wolves) but just so long as Eddie Howe’s players do the business on Saturday in the late kick-off, then I think we will be ok.
As I say, a key time in this fight for top four and a win against West Ham would then see Newcastle going up next against a team / club in even worse form than the Hammers.
Eddie Howe in nine days time goes back to Bournemouth and their recent Premier League record is in their last 10 PL matches they have lost eight, drawn against Forest and won 3-0 against…yes, good old Everton.
A bit of a pattern building up here, the only team the other strugglers at the bottom are managing to beat!
As I say, all about Newcastle United holding their nerve at this point.
These two fixtures (home to West Ham and away at Bournemouth) must rank amongst the very most winnable games that Newcastle United face in the remaining months of the season.
Two wins and Newcastle would then be on 45 points from 22 PL games with only 16 left to play.
Nothing would be decided by then BUT Newcastle would be in such a strong position.
A guarantee of at least still 10 points ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool, whilst I think all but certain to have stretched the lead to fifth still further (Tottenham are home to Man City and then away at Leicester).
It would then be a massive final Premier League match in February for Newcastle United on 18 February against Liverpool at St James’ Park, where even maybe Eddie Howe and his side could have the luxury of a point not being a terrible result, so long as wins against West Ham and Bournemouth had been banked.
The second half of February of course and then into March, also sees all of the usual suspects having the extra burden of European matches to contend with as well as their Premier League games.
This really is the moment for Newcastle United to surge forward and make sure of top four, as we surely won’t have a better chance. Next season will see, almost for sure, NUFC also having European commitments of their own to deal with.
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