16:00 KO (BST); Sunday 10th September; Liberty Stadium (Swansea, England) Sky Sports
Paul Clement was set a great challenge when he took over from Bob Bradley in January, with Swansea’s chances of retaining their Premier League status looking slim to none.
Having comfortably kept his new side afloat, he was then set the challenge of finding replacements for the two players key to his previous success.
Taking his first meaningful footsteps into the second phase of his tenure at the Welsh club, Clement has made a solid start but the real challenge begins here and Newcastle are the first team to stand in his way following his initial rebuilding of the Swans.
Rafael Benitez must surely now realise the extent of the problems facing the club he once described as a sleeping giant. Having guided his team to their first Premier League victory in emphatic fashion, there will be more belief in the camp now, a confidence which could prove crucial.
As a side that is looking hard to judge, Newcastle have an ability to either fair well in the league or implode. With Benitez still at the helm for the Toon and key players now returning, they may just have enough to surprise a few people this season.
Last Time Out
Crystal Palace 0 – 2 SWANSEA CITY
Swansea recorded their first win of the season in fine style albeit against a Palace side who showed no real threat in the game during the first hour of play.
The old cliché of only being able to beat the team placed in front of you was ably handled though, with an assured display from Clement’s team.
Alfie Mawson stood out for his team in central defence, holding firm against the fleeting attacks and carrying the ball forward with purpose with an 83% passing accuracy.
It was Tammy Abraham who once again looked to inspire the Swans in attack though. Scoring the first Swansea goal just before half-time, the young Chelsea loanee was a constant problem for the Palace defence because of his tireless work rate.
Proving to have a good understanding with the surrounding players, it will be difficult for Clement to break up the blooming partnership that’s growing between him and Jordan Ayew.
Newcastle United 3 – 0 West Ham United
Newcastle piled the increasing pressure on Slaven Bilic with a deserved win over the Hammers. The victory was engineered by industry rather than guile although there was a level of tenacity about their play which was admirable.
With many talented players in possession of the wrong attitude being the root cause of Newcastle’s previous failed Premier League campaign, this game provided more positives than just the three points earned.
Isaac Hayden and Matt Ritchie were the two players to epitomise this newfound spirit. Hayden showed great composure at the base of the midfield, breaking down any forays forward by the Londoners.
While Ritchie also helped out his team defensively winning 50% of his tackles and making two clearances, it was his wing-play which contributed 10 crosses that was a thorn in the Hammers side.
While he may be too quiet to be considered a classic captain figure, it was an inspiring performance which spurred his teammates on in search of their first victory.
Sung-Yueng Ki (knee) and Nathan Dyer (Achilles) are both still unavailable for the Swans who now have Renato Sanches and Wilfried Bony in place of Gylfi Sigurðsson and Fernando Llorente after their late transfer dealings.
With many options facing him, the decision to play Bony ahead of Jordan Ayew could be the biggest given that Ayew scored in their previous game against Palace.
Chancel Mbemba (hamstring) picked up an injury on international duty while Karl Darlow (knock) Paul Dummett (hamstring) and Aleksandar Mitrovic (suspension) will all miss out for the Magpies.
In better news for Benitez, Florian Lejeune (ankle) is expected to be fit following his injury from the opening day defeat to Tottenham and Jonjo Shelvey is free to face his old club after his three-game suspension although it remains to be seen if he’s trusted to go straight back into the first team.
Key Battle: Renato Sanches vs Mikel Merino
The loan signing of Sanches from Bayern Munich turned many heads at the end of last month but the time for talk is now over. After a disappointing season in Germany last time around, Sanches will be keen to get his career back on track after showing so much promise in his early days, leading up to his star turn in the 2016 European Championships.
With Swansea in dire need of a creative player since the sale of Gylfi Sigurðsson, Sanches should fit directly into the starting eleven. Whether he can capture his former glory remains to be seen.
Aiming to disrupt Swansea’s creative output on Sunday afternoon is another young player joining the Premier League after a poor season In Germany.
Merino only managed a handful of minutes playing time for Borussia Dortmund but has already shown great promise this season in both black and white stripes and playing for the Spanish Under-21 side.
Capable of playing an array of passes and breaking up the opposition attacks, Merino may well have shown enough to prevent Shelvey returning to face his old team after serving a three-match ban for a foolish opening day red card.
Shuffling the Pack
With the transfer window finally closed, Paul Clement has brought five new faces into the dressing room in place of two that left. With Sam Clucas and Renato Sanches being versatile, this leaves many options open to how he sets his team up.
While many managers (including Rafael Benitez) will stick almost stubbornly with their blueprint for every game, this allows Swansea to adjust their game plan according to who they face.
This can provide Swansea with an element of surprise at the beginning of each game, forcing their opponents to react and manage the challenge which they’re faced with.
While this allows for more flexibility in the Swansea squad, it will be interesting to see if some players remain happy at not playing in the first team every week.
It also remains to be seen whether the players can adapt to their new system on what might be a twice-weekly basis.
It’s often stated you should never return to the scene of past glories but Wilfried Bony has done just that. Losing Fernando Llorente will be a huge blow to Swansea’s campaign, arguably as much as the sale of Sigurðsson will prove to be.
To replace their main striker, the Swans have turned to an old hero.
After failing to make an impression in Manchester and Stoke, Bony has now had two years out of the footballing limelight.
While a lack of match fitness will probably be the first hurdle he needs to cross, restoring his star to full brightness is likely to be a long and difficult path.
It may be, however, that a return to familiar territory and happy memories could inspire a newfound confidence in the forward to help bolster his game to the levels he’s already shown the Premier League he’s capable of delivering.
A Buyer’s Market
While nobody could have plausibly expected the scale in which the summer transfer window exploded, neither would the Spanish manager have expected the Newcastle board to act so clumsily in their negotiations.
Having taken several weeks to complete the formalities on what appeared to be the easy deals of Florian Lejeune and Daryl Murphy, Lee Charnley moved even slower towards several other missed targets.
Having agreed to the sale of several players in return for money to bring in one more star at the end of the window, Benitez was reportedly left furious at 5 pm on the 31st August when he learnt that no more deals would take place this year.
While he has several new faces to use, Benitez now has the challenge of securing the Magpies safety with a squad that is slightly lighter than the one he originally drew up in his planning for this season.
PREDICTION: Swansea City 1 – 2 Newcastle United
Swansea appear at first glance to be favourites to win this game but a lack of proven strikers could prove to be their undoing, especially against a defence which is likely to be well-drilled by Benitez.
With Joselu in attack, Newcastle look to have a player unafraid of shooting and he could go on an early streak after at last being given an opportunity to play regularly in the Premier League.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?