Premier League 17/18 Week 32: Newcastle United vs Huddersfield Town – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Caught on the fringe of the relegation battle, these two newly-promoted clubs face a crunch encounter in their plans for survival
15:00 BST, Saturday 31st March, St. James’ Park (Newcastle, England)
A big win against the Saints was enough to lift Rafael Benítez’s side well away from the cusp of the relegation zone last time out, however, they still require more wins over the coming weeks. With only 2 defeats from their last 10 league matches, Benitez has recently instilled a resilience in his team evident at the beginning of this campaign. While the Magpies were beaten in the reverse fixture back in August, their home form has returned and the locals will be confident of a third consecutive win at St. James’ on Saturday afternoon.
David Wagner’s team are yet to find their early season form, having failed to score in their last 3 league fixtures. This is the third such sequence they’ve encountered this season and both previous runs were ended with a win, however, those games were both played on home soil. Trailing their hosts in the fixture by only a single point and 2 league places, the rewards of breaking their unwanted blank record will lift them above their rivals and a step closer to safety.
Last Time Out
Newcastle United 3-0 Southampton (Premier League)
Newcastle ruthlessly dispatched a sorry Saints side who parted with their manager following a spirit-less performance. While Southampton were poor, much of the credit for this must be placed on the shoulders of Newcastle’s display. It took only 63 seconds for Kenedy to open the scoring for the home side as the Magpies played direct, incisive football.
Although they finished the game with only 37% possession, Newcastle constantly looked to use the ball and were well rewarded for a quick counter-attack that saw Kenedy grab his and Newcastle’s second when they burst out from a Southampton corner after half an hour.
Matt Ritchie added a third when Jonjo Shelvey drew the defenders towards him before laying off a simple ball across the area for Ritchie to pass into the corner of the net. It was Shelvey’s second assist of the game and displayed the calmness and teamwork which Newcastle used to dismantle Southampton and gain 3 valuable points.
Huddersfield Town 0-2 Crystal Palace (Premier League)
The Terriers fell to a home defeat against a side below them in the table with a lacklustre showing which leaves them far from safety. While the Eagles were good value for their win, Huddersfield were far below the standards their fans expect this season.
While Florent Hadergjonaj did well to keep Wilfried Zaha quiet throughout the match, few others came away from the match with a reason to give their manager any comfort. Tom Ince was particularly disappointing on the left wing while Aaron Mooy’s usual composure and quality of passing was missing for most of the game.
Jonas Lössl did his best to keep the Terriers in the game but was beaten by James Tomkins when he found himself with space and time after the ball fell loose from a corner. A terrible attempted tackle from Mathias Jorgensen then gave the Eagles a penalty which doubled their lead after 68 minutes to leave the home side with no way back into a game which they will put down as an off-day and hope isn’t repeated soon.
Newcastle United Lineup
Islam Slimani has been passed fit and is expected to make his club debut although Joselu and Jesús Gámez both miss out with ankle injuries. This will probably lead to the same lineup which began against Southampton, with Slimani potentially replacing Dwight Gayle as the main striker at the tip of Newcastle’s attack.
Huddersfield Town Lineup
Danny Williams is the only major injury for Wagner after being ruled out for the rest of this season with an ankle injury but Terence Kongolo and Elias Kachunga both return for selection this week from their knock and knee injury, respectively.
Key Battle: Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle United) vs Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town)
Touted by many as a player who should have been involved in the recent England squad, Shelvey has proven to be as divisive as he is talented. His temperament is often called into question, especially considering he was charged with making racially motivated remarks towards Wolves midfielder, Romain Saïss, last season. Despite being repeatedly frozen out of the first team by Benitez after any instances of ill-discipline, Shelvey keeps playing his way back on merit and is currently in fine form for the Magpies.
Looking to pull the strings from midfield for Huddersfield is another player who boasts a great passing ability. Mooy had a disappointing outing against Palace and then missed Australia’s friendly with Columbia due to injury but is fully expected to return to action this weekend. With the 5th -most completed tackles (81) in the Premier League and 6th-highest number of crosses played into the opponent’s penalty area (110), Mooy offers much more to the team than an eye for a good pass.
Better late than never
After joining the club on the last day of the transfer window, there was an initial excitement about the loan-capture of Islam Slimani across Tyneside. While Benitez has assembled a robust squad capable of holding their own in the Premier League, a striker has long been a missing part of this season’s jigsaw for the Spanish manager.
Having taken the vacant number 13 jersey, Slimani’s thigh strain proved to be more unlucky than the Newcastle medical assessment first believed. Fully two months after acquiring his signature, it now appears the Algerian striker is ready to make his Newcastle bow. While he cannot play the following match against his parent club and will surely lack at least some match sharpness after playing so little this season, Slimani could yet prove to be a good fit in a team he has expressed a desire to play for beyond his current loan deal.
Here to stay
David Wagner has again denied he has ambitions to leave the Terriers any time soon. Following speculation which linked him to the recent vacancy at Southampton, Wagner was again forced to comment on his commitment to the club which sees his contract expire at the end of next season.
It’s perhaps no surprise that the 46-year-old manager has seen his name connected to other Premier League clubs given his success at Huddersfield in such a short time. Like both of the other newly promoted clubs in the league this season, Huddersfield’s decision to stick resolutely with their manager and their over-arching plan for Premier League acclimatisation has paid off handsomely. While not guaranteed yet, it seems that Huddersfield will remain in the top-flight keeping Wagner at the helm to guide them through a second season of Premier League football next year.
Prediction: Newcastle United 2-1 Huddersfield Town
While Huddersfield have played well in patches of late, Newcastle have displayed far more consistency over the last three months. A return to form in front of their own fans and a new striker to add to their starting lineup could prove just too much for the Terriers this weekend and help Newcastle climb further away from the struggles below them.