Both teams will seek priceless three points when rock-bottom Newcastle United welcome Norwich City to St. James’ Park in an early-season relegation six-pointer.

Premier League football returns this midweek with another set of key fixtures, with Newcastle locking horns with Norwich City at St. James’ Park in an encounter that will have great ramifications at the bottom-end of the table. It may be too early in the season to call the game a ‘relegation six-pointer’, but Tuesday’s game can prove to be a turning point in the season for both sides.

The Magpies suffered a comprehensive 2-0 defeat at the hands of Arsenal last Saturday, keeping them rooted to the bottom of the table. Eddie Howe & co. need to start picking up wins if they are to turn their fortunes around and avoid relegation.

And this coming week could well be a season-defining one, with fellow relegation rivals Norwich and Burnley coming to the town in quick succession, representing a prime opportunity to claim a long-awaited victory and lift themselves off the foot of the table. Bagging six points from their next two games will see Newcastle closing the gap on 17th place, but it is easier said than done in the Premier League.

Norwich, meanwhile, have sustained their recent upturn in form and are picking up vital results with a new manager bounce, picking up seven points out of a possible nine from their last three games, including a fairly impressive goalless draw at Carrow Road against a high-flying Wolves side last time out. However, the Canaries still remain in the relegation zone – level on nine points with 18th-placed Burnley and 3 points clear of bottom-placed Newcastle.

The last fixture at St. James’ Park two seasons ago finished in a dull goalless draw. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides at St. James’ Park, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both sides.

Team News & Tactics

Newcastle United

After a fairly disappointing performance last weekend, Newcastle boss Eddie Howe could deploy an attacking 4-3-3 formation and would be desperate for a much-improved showing from his players this time out. Newcastle have lost both Jamaal Lascelles and Matt Ritchie to one-match bans due to the accumulation of yellow cards ahead of this contest, so Howe will be forced to make changes to his starting XI for this midweek tie.

Jamal Lewis and Ciaran Clark will almost be certain to benefit from the duo’s absence and start on Tuesday, while Jacob Murphy and Javier Manquillo are pushing hard to displace Emil Krafth on the right. Isaac Hayden and Miguel Almiron could return to the starting XI to provide some much-needed fresh legs in the centre of the park, with Joe Willock possibly dropping out to avoid playing two games in a row in quick succession.

Martin Dubravka’s return was a welcome boost for the Toon in their survival bid; the Slovakian produced several top-drawer saves to keep Newcastle in the game last time out and could retain his spot between the sticks. Defensively, Howe could opt to go with a back-four of Lewis, Ciaran Clark, Fabian Schar and Krafth as the defensive quartet to try keeping things solid at the back.

Lewis has played just six minutes of top-flight football all season but will provide an athletic presence replacing Ritchie at left-back. Up ahead in the midfield, Hayden, Almiron and Jonjo Shelvey could form a trio. Hayden and Almiron will provide the energy while Shelvey will operate in his creative lynchpin role.

Allan Saint-Maximin will hope to have more of an impact in this game and will get the license to perform his mazy runs, tricks and dribbles, while Joelinton would get another opportunity to prove his worth on the right after a woeful display at Arsenal. Callum Wilson will again lead the line down the middle for the Toon, carrying the majority of Newcastle’s goal-scoring burden.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Dubravka; Krafth, Schar, Clark, Lewis; Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey; Joelinton, Wilson, Saint-Maximin

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Norwich City

The sacking of Daniel Farke caused widespread anguish among Norwich fans, but the Canaries’ decision appears to have been justified with successor Dean Smith picking up four points in the next two games while successfully reintegrating Todd Cantwell and Billy Gilmour into the first-team setup.

Norwich will be without the services defensive midfielder Mathias Normann, who was forced off against Wolves on Saturday due to a pelvic injury and is scheduled to see a specialist about the long-standing problem. Lukas Rupp was called up to replace Normann and could start here, while Frenchman Pierre Lees-Melou is also pushing for a recall.

Turkish international Ozan Kabak has returned to full first-team training after recovering from his illness, while defender Christoph Zimmermann (ankle) is ruled out, and full-back Sam Byram (hamstring) is set to feature for the under-23s game on Monday night. Smith would be hesitant to make too many changes given his team’s recent positive results.

Smith could set up Norwich in a familiar 4-3-3 formation with pressing, focus on set-pieces and compactness his tactical hallmark. In goal, there is no looking past Tim Krul. The former Newcastle keeper will be hoping to keep his second successive clean sheet on his return to St. James’ Park. Guarding him from central defence would be the pair of Ben Gibson and skipper Grant Hanley. As for the two full-backs, Max Aarons and Brandon Williams pick themselves.

In midfield, Scotsman Kenny Mclean will have the responsibility to keep things tight, while Lukas Rupp and Billy Gilmour would provide the necessary defensive support. The midfield trio will press intensely and try to create overloads in the centre. Finally, Teemu Pukki, Josh Sargent and Milot Rashica will form a three-man attacking frontline and aim to be more clinical than last time out against Wolves.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3)Krul; Aarons, Hanley, Gibson, Williams; Gilmour, Rupp, McLean; Rashica, Pukki, Sargent

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Key Stats

  • Newcastle are undefeated against Norwich in their last nine home league games, since a 2-0 defeat back in 1988.
  • Norwich have won two of their last five top-flight meetings against Newcastle (W2 D2 L1).
  • Norwich have not won a Premier League game on Tuesdays in the last 14 attempts (D3 L11), while the hosts have also lost each of their last three league fixtures on Tuesdays.
  • Newcastle have conceded a league-high 29 goals from their 13 games so far this campaign, including three goals in each of their past three games at St. James’ Park. They have also shipped in more goals than any other Premier League side at home (16).
  • Norwich boast the worst attacking record in the division, having netted only seven times all season. However, five of those goals have come in their last four matches.

Player to Watch

Jonjo Shelvey

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Shelvey has always divided opinions among the Newcastle fanbase. He struggled with injuries and form earlier this season. And that reckless red card against Tottenham seemed to be the end of the road for his career at St. James’ Park. However, a vote of confidence from new boss Eddie Howe and Shelvey looks to be a completely different player.

While his incredible passing ability and range of distribution were never doubted, his poor work-rate has always been criticized. Howe’s proactive pressing system seems to be suiting Shelvey, who is covering a lot of ground, and his overall performances have drastically improved.

The 29-year-old has easily been Newcastle’s best player in the last two games, making five key passes against Brentford and firing three shots on target against Arsenal, one of which hit the crossbar. He could play a vital role in dictating the tempo and unlocking the Norwich defence to build on his recent impressive displays.

Prediction

Newcastle United 3-2 Norwich

Newcastle will be aware that there will be few better chances to end their winless streak, but Norwich will be difficult to break down, as demonstrated by their recent results. The Magpies will have the home advantage and will be egged on the supporters. They will change their approach from the Arsenal game and come out all guns blazing, pressing with intensity and attacking with purpose.

But they need to be wary of Norwich’s potency on turnovers. The injury to Mathias Normann has dealt a significant blow to the Canaries. While the game pits two of the league’s worst defensive teams against each other, the visitors have struggled for goals this season, which could be the deciding factor. As a result, The Hard Tackle predicts Newcastle to win 3-2 against Norwich in a thrilling encounter at St. James’ Park.

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