15:00 GMT, Saturday 24th February, Vitality Stadium (Bournemouth, England)
Despite a humbling 4-1 defeat by Huddersfield last time out, Bournemouth have been in fine form since Christmas.
While defeat to the Terriers ended an unbeaten run of seven games (W4, D3), Eddie Howe has had two weeks to fix what could be little more than a small bump in the road.
Having won each of their previous three home games and seen three or more goals scored in nine of their last ten league matches, the Cherries will hard work has finally been bearing fruit.
At Newcastle, Benitez has had to do things the hard way. The win over Manchester United may have bumped them up into 13th position. However, they remain only two points away from danger and still haven’t found the answer to their goal-scoring problem.
With loan-signing Islam Slimani closing in on full fitness ahead of this weekend, Newcastle may have a new hero to plug what has been a noticeable void in their team this season.
Last Time Out
Huddersfield Town 4-1 Bournemouth (Premier League)
Bournemouth’s high-flying ambitions came crashing back to Earth as their dazzling form was ended in West Yorkshire.
The Cherries started the game brightly enough, only for a 7th-minute goal from Alex Pritchard pin them back.
The response was impressive though and Junior Stanislas had returned parity to the match within five minutes as Bournemouth’s counter-attacks bristled with threat.
It was the home side which made their possession count for the remainder of the first half, although, Bournemouth looked very capable of scoring and were still well in the game at only 2-1 down during the interval.
A poor second half saw any further hopes of a comeback dashed. A Steve Cook own-goal midway through the second half took the final wind from his side’s sails and Howe was left to rue an unusually insipid performance throughout the closing stages of the match.
Newcastle United 1-0 Manchester United (Premier League)
The Magpies recorded an unexpected and highly deserved win over the league’s second-place side in front of a lively and enthusiastic crowd.
It was Newcastle who made the better start to the game before the visitors slowly exerted some authority on the game.
The midfield partnership of Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diamé proved insurmountable for their star-studded opponents, winning almost everything that came near them throughout the game.
Newcastle were also unlucky not to have a penalty awarded to them at the end of the first half when Dwight Gayle was felled in the corner of the box just before the interval.
But when Romelu Lukaku’s goal just after the break was disallowed for a push, the home team once more grew in confidence.
Matt Ritchie’s winning goal came soon after when he found a loose ball and plenty of space in the penalty area which was just reward for the player who covered more of the pitch than anyone else.
With only long-term injuries to Tyrone Mings (back) and Jermain Defoe (ankle), Howe will have plenty of options open to him in picking his side this week.
The three centre-back option appears to be his new preference. However, having switched to a 3-4-3 / 5-3-1 formation for the previous five matches and it should be the style adopted for the visit of the Magpies this weekend with out-of-form Joshua King again potentially missing out of the starting lineup.
Newcastle United Lineup
Jesús Gámez (ankle) is Benitez’s only major doubt although late fitness tests will be required for both Ciaran Clark (knee) and Islam Slimani (thigh) with the latter likely to start from the bench this weekend.
This could see Gayle reprieve his role as the lone striker in a rare unchanged starting eleven from the Newcastle boss.
Key Battle: Jordan Ibe (Bournemouth) vs Martin Dúbravka (Newcastle)
The Cherries triumvirate of Jordan Ibe, Junior Stanislas and Callum Wilson have played a large part in their recent successes but the emergence of Ibe will have been particularly pleasing for Eddie Howe.
The club’s second-most expensive signing has often struggled to justify his price-tag since switching from Liverpool but has battled back to earn his place back in the team.
With three assists and a goal from his last six league games, he could prove to be Newcastle’s biggest threat and not least for his pin-point dead-ball deliveries.
Aiming to stop the rich goal-scoring run of the home side is a player who enjoyed one of the finest Premier League debuts in recent memory.
Dúbravka is on loan at the Magpies with an option to buy and the big sweeper-keeper has already set himself a high standard to follow with a commanding display against the Red Devils.
Quick in reflex and on his feet, the Slovakian stopper also dominated all aerial balls during an influential performance which helped shut out the team in red.
But one swallow does not a summer make, and he now needs to show he can replicate this on a consistent basis in the Premier League.
Howe’s winter chorus
Eddie Howe has slowly established himself as a true Premier League force in recent season’s, becoming a bastion of British managers currently working in the game. With his reputation being enhanced with each passing month, his thoughts on the game are also carrying more weight.
Howe this week became the latest manager to speak up in favour of introducing a winter break into English football, a subject which still sharply divides many fans. As a coach who has worked his way through the lower leagues, he now speaks with the benefit of his team facing eight less games than a Championship side faces throughout a season.
Having just taken advantage of a two-week break with a warm-weather training camp in Portugal, Reading between the lines, Howe must be confident his players will return buoyed for this weekend’s fixture from what he’s seen in training over the last few days.
A welcome change
One of the biggest talking points throughout Newcastle in recent weeks has been the dramatic improvement made by Diamé in recent weeks. The midfielder became a much-maligned figure on Tyneside after a long series of poor games for the club. This included many Championship games last season when he often failed to make any positive impact for his team.
Having put much of his success in the lap of his personal trainer and his return to peak fitness, this would also corroborate the narrative started during a training ground bust-up he had with club captain Jamaal Lascelles last October – reportedly sparked by a lack of effort from the midfielder.
It should also be noted that he now plays a much deeper role in midfield, sitting in front of the defence rather than being used as a creative force further up the pitch.
Whatever the reason, his change of fortunes and increased work ethic have not gone unnoticed by the Geordie faithful who’s opinion has been turned completely within a few months.
Prediction: Bournemouth 2-1 Newcastle United
While Newcastle will be invigorated from their last match, they still need to find a way to solve their shortage of goals. If Slimani is fit to start this game then he will still be lacking match sharpness while almost every other option in attack has repeatedly failed for Benitez this season.
With the Cherries suffering a humbling defeat in their previous match, they too will be galvanised as they look to bounce back which could set them up for a fourth successive home win.