15:00 GMT, Saturday 4th November, St James’ Park (Newcastle, England)
With speculation of a takeover softening from a storm to mere whispers in the wind, Newcastle’s position appears to have changed from a ‘by Christmas’ to an ‘end of the season’ deadline for any prospective moves.
On the field, the Magpies have continued to impress despite falling foul of a dour defeat last Monday at Turf Moor. Sitting comfortably on fourteen points in the top-half of the table, Rafael Benitez will have his sights firmly set on the struggling Cherries as he looks to overcome this minor setback.
With only half as many points as Newcastle, Bournemouth have only recently begun to build momentum in the league. An improvement on the field has seen them start to pick up results, claiming two wins from their last three games in all competitions.
Eddie Howe will now be hoping he can combine these last two victories which saw a win away to Stoke and victory over North-East side Middlesbrough, although it would only be the second time in the club’s top-flight history they’ve achieved consecutive away wins.
Last Time Out
Burnley 1-0 Newcastle United (Premier League)
The Magpies slipped to a fourth defeat of the season in a game which will already have been forgotten by many of the fans.
Benitez gave a surprising recall to Mo Diamé as the midfielder made his first Premiership start for the Toon just three weeks after a training ground bust-up with captain Jamaal Lascelles. With Mikel Merino suffering a back problem, Diamé put in a solid performance which, in fitting with the overall match, was hard-working but uninspiring.
While United set up to defend with striker Joselu and number 10, Ayoze Pérez, doing more work in front of their own box than that of Burnley’s, a blunt attack was largely due to any opportunities being wasted by poor crosses with DeAndre Yedlin and Christian Atsu particularly lacking of an end-product to their efforts.
The game appeared to be heading towards a mutually agreeable draw until a second-half strike exposed Newcastle’s lack of cohesion in attack, providing a result that few of the Toon army could argue with.
Bournemouth 0-1 Chelsea (Premier League)
The Cherries stood firm for large parts of the game but were ultimately undone again by a side who showed more attacking intent. Once again the forward line for Bournemouth was lightweight, their one and only strike on goal arriving in the 92nd minute when Steve Cook could’ve done better and stolen an undeserved point for the home team.
With Asmir Begovic facing his old club, he impressed with some fine saves including a smart stop from Alvaro Morata in the first half. However, the keeper will have been disappointed to be beaten at his near post for Eden Hazard’s decisive 51st-minute goal. With Eddie Howe choosing to remove Jermain Defoe at half-time, it seems unclear now how their current problem will be solved.
Paul Dummett and his ongoing hamstring problem is the only injury concern for Rafael Benitez this weekend with Mikel Merino fully expected to be fit and ready for his team after being left out of the starting line up against Burnley.
Tyrone Mings remains out of action with a back injury but Howe could be without Joshua King (illness), Junior Stanislas (groin), Ryan Fraser (knock) and Benik Afobe (knock).
This could see Callum Wilson make his first Premiership start of the season or Jermain Defoe once again get a chance to record his 200th league goal with the extra spice of his time spent at Newcastle’s local rivals, Sunderland, last season.
Key Battle: Joselu (Newcastle) vs Callum Wilson (Bournemouth)
Newcastle striker Joselu has proven to be Benitez’s favoured option amongst a squad lacking a potent finishers. With two strikes from his nine games, one of which coming courtesy of the Liverpool defence, he has as many goals as centre back Jamal Lascelles.
Despite disciplined and hard-working displays, Joselu only has a 52% shooting accuracy with nine shots taken at goal. He, therefore, averages a shot on goal every two games and the Magpies will be hoping that his effort wide of the left post on Monday means a goal-bound effort is in store this week.
As the Premiership’s lowest scoring team, the Cherries fans are in dire need of a new hero to get behind. Lys Mousset looks to have potential as well as the vocal backing of his manager but their saviour could well come from elsewhere.
Callum Wilson enjoyed a prolific run in the team before suffering a long-term injury and, having scored against Middlesbrough in the Carabao Cup, he could just be the player to answer his side’s prayers.
Wearing a Magic Hat
The match against Bournemouth will be the first time Matt Ritchie has faced his former club since Benitez came knocking for him last summer. His shock transfer and the decision to drop from the Premiership to the Championship, along with a series of stand-out displays, has firmly installed him as a cult hero on Tyneside.
Ritchie is currently second to the Manchester City pair of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva in the Premier League’s assist chart, something made even more impressive when you consider the lack of goalscorers currently in the Magpies ranks.
While he’s a quiet voice on and off the pitch, he lets his work-rate do all of his talking and epitomises Benitez’s ethic of helping the team defensively while clinically profiting in an attacking sense when the opportunities present themselves.
An English Core
The good news for English football is that one of the Premiership’s sides has used thirteen English players in their senior squad during the first quarter of this season already. The bad news is that this side currently resides only one place above the foot of the table.
As the development of English players becomes more of a talking point in the run-up to next summers almost inevitable hype/failure cycle, Eddie Howe is one of the few managers who has been a strong advocate of home-grown talent.
As a manager who is recognised for his personal development of players, this will surely stand him in good stead for his future career. However, where it leaves Bournemouth in the near future is a more pertinent question for the Cherries fans right now.
Prediction: Newcastle United 1-0 Bournemouth
Half of Newcastle’s fixtures this season have finished with a 1-0 scoreline (W2, L3) and this seems like a highly probable outcome from this match with both sides struggling for goals. Like many of their previous games, the way the result lands will probably come off a very fine margin.
Considering the Cherries have failed to score in six league games this season and with Newcastle having taken three wins from their last four home games, it could well be a long trip back home for the Cherries in more ways than one.
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