Newcastle United will be hoping for their first win of the campaign to kickstart the Eddie Howe era when they play hosts to Brentford in the Premier League on Saturday.

After hassling around a big-name manager in serial Europa League winner Unai Emery, Newcastle eventually appointed former Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe as their new head coach. The 43-year-old has received a positive response from Magpies faithful and will be hoping for a major turnaround to get the club out of their current predicament.

However, the task could not get any tougher for Eddie Howe & co., with them currently languishing at 19th position on the table, five points adrift of safety, they will certainly be looking to turn a corner with a string of positive performances.

The hosts will take away the positives from their spirited second-half display away at Amex last time out against Brighton & Hove Albion when an unlikely Isaac Hayden second-half volley cancelled out Leandro Trossard’s converted penalty to earn his side a hard-fought point. Although the result extended their winless streak, a point is better than nothing, especially in a relegation battle.

Brentford, meanwhile, came with momentum and bravery from the championship, making an impressive start to the season, collecting twelve points from the first seven games. With three wins, three draws, and only one defeat, they found themselves in the top half of the Premier League table. However, four league defeats on the trot, particularly the last two against relegation-threatened Burnley and Norwich, have served as a reality check on their priorities.

The Bees are only four points clear of the relegation zone, and Thomas Frank & co. will be looking to bounce back strongly in their upcoming set of fixtures. And ahead of their weekend’s matchup against Newcastle at St James’ Park, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both sides.

Team News & Tactics

Newcastle United

In a piece of breaking news, newly-appointed Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe will miss his first game in charge on Saturday after testing positive for Covid-19 and will undergo isolation. This means assistant head coaches Jason Tindall and Graeme Jones will take charge of the team for the weekend. However, this would not change Newcastle’s approach and preparations for the game.

In terms of player injuries, the Magpies have an almost fully fit squad barring Paul Dummett who is still recovering from a calf injury. Newcastle will set up in a 4-4-1-1 formation, a system Eddie Howe & coaching staff used widely at Bournemouth with intensity and chance creation as its foundations. Although a different system usually takes time to embed in the squad, this will provide the Toon with some identity on the pitch in the longer term.

Martin Dubravka can return in goal ahead of Karl Darlow. The Slovakian’s commanding presence would be a boost for the defence and would also allow them to be more productive while playing out from the back. After helping Switzerland qualify for next year’s Qatar World Cup, Fabian Schar may finally get a chance as a starter, with skipper Jamaal Lascelles filling the other centre-back position alongside him.

Matt Ritchie will again operate as a makeshift left-back while Javier Manquillo could be a solid presence at right-back. Both are expected to be pinned by Brentford’s advancing wing-backs, and they will have to seize their opportunities and provide a threat on turnovers with Ritchie’s crosses being a handy tool in chance-creation for the Magpies.

Jonjo Shelvey would offer the creative impetus for the side, with his incredible passing ability providing the Toon with more hold of the ball in midfield while Isaac Hayden would be the enforcer, breaking up Brentford’s plays and danger on the counter-attack. Miguel Almiron and Joelinton could operate on the flanks as a supporting cast to the potent front-two of Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson.

Probable Lineup (4-4-1-1): Dubravka; Manquillo, Schar, Lascelles, Ritchie; Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Joelinton; Saint-Maximin, Wilson

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Brentford

While it is to be expected that Brentford’s initial momentum and excitement following promotion will have worn off to some degree, injuries to key players have undoubtedly contributed to their rot as well. Thomas Frank will again have to make do without some of his usual starters. Kristoffer Ajer (hamstring), Mads Sorensen (knee), David Raya (knee) and Joshua Dasilva (hip) are the confirmed absentees for the Newcastle game.

Mathias Jensen is back available after recovering from the coronavirus that he contracted while on international duty. Yoane Wissa is getting closer to returning to the squad after missing a month with an ankle injury, while centre-back Matthias Jorgensen faces a late fitness test. Shandon Baptiste is also back in contention for a spot on the team after missing six weeks due to a dislocated shoulder.

Although Frank’s side have shown flexibility to adjust the system during the games, they prefer to start in a resilient 3-5-2 formation. With first-choice goalkeeper David Raya nursing an injury, backup option Alvaro Fernandez will be keen to impress between the sticks. Young defender Charlie Goode should make his first Premier League start, slotting alongside Ethan Pinnock and Pontus Jansson to form the three-man backline.

Sergi Canos and Rico Henry would again operate as wing-backs, offering the much-needed width while making forward surges to cause opposition problems on the flanks. They would also be in charge of providing quality deliveries into the box. The trio of Christian Norgaard, Vitaly Janelt and Saman Ghoddos will take up their respective positions in the central midfield.

Ghoddos has proven his offensive capabilities in recent games after coming off the bench, bagging a goal and an assist. The Iranian is primarily an attacking midfielder, hence will pick up advanced spaces between the midfield and attacking frontline while Janelt and Norgaard provide defensive assurance. Finally, the duo of Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo make the two-man strike force.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Fernandez; Goode, Pinnock, Jansson; Canos, Ghoddos, Norgaard, Janelt, Henry; Toney, Mbeumo

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Key Stats

  • This is only the fourth meeting between Newcastle and Brentford, with the Magpies’ edging Brentford with two wins.
  • However, Brentford – then a Championship side – did beat the Tynesiders 1-0 in the Carabao Cup quarterfinals last term, with midfielder Joshua Dasilva scoring the decisive goal.
  • The Magpies are the only team in the league who are yet to register their first win since the start of the campaign,
  • Newcastle have one of the worst defensive records in the league, with them and Watford the two teams yet to keep a clean sheet while Norwich (26) are the only side to have conceded more goals than the Magpies so far this campaign (24).
  • Brentford, on the other hand, had been impressive defensively in the initial phase of the season, conceding only seven goals in their first 8 games. But they have now conceded the same number of goals in their last three games.

Player to Watch

Allan Saint-Maximin

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After an impressive start to the season, contributing with 2 goals and 3 assists from the opening five games. Saint-Maximin’s form has faded in recent matches, with him having to contribute more on the defensive side of things. The Frenchman has tried to make things happen on his own but has lacked any support from the players around him.

But that is all going to change under new manager Eddie Howe, whose front-foot, attacking approach may unleash Saint-Maximin’s technical flair in the final third, allowing him to make a huge impact in games.

Prediction

Newcastle United 2-1 Brentford

Although Newcastle players would miss their manager barking out instructions from the dugout, there’s no hiding in front of a raucous crowd of 52,000 present at St. James’ Park to embrace the first game under the new managerial regime. Thomas Frank & co. will carry a threat when they make a trip to Tyneside while ex-Newcastle striker Ivan Toney would be vying to silence his doubters by netting against his former employers.

With both sides struggling for complete performances, this can prove to be a tightly-contested game and one very hard to predict. The Bees’ are probably low on confidence and their fearless attitude has diminished in recent games while they are also decimated with injuries. Hence, The Hard Tackle predicts Newcastle to register their first victory at a vibrant St. James’ Park in a hard-fought manner, just managing to get over the line with a 2-1 scoreline.

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