A traditional 3pm Saturday kick off sees Newcastle United playing host to Bournemouth in the latest instalment of the 15/16 Premier League season. This is the second meeting of the two sides this season, the previous being a 1-0 win for the then visitors at the Vitality Stadium down on the South Coast back in November. Ayoze Perez got the goal that day, though it is probably fair to say Bournemouth were unlucky not to have got anything from that game, largely down to some fantastic goalkeeping from Rob Elliot.
The 1-0 win at Bournemouth in November was the Magpies’ first victory on the road this campaign. Fast forward to March and we’re now up to two away wins, in fact Newcastle have played 14 away games so far this season, winning two, drawing one and losing 11. Seven points from a possible 42, scoring just seven goals and conceding 32 in the process. As shocking as those statistics are Steve McClaren will be thankful that this fixture is at St James’ Park and not away from home.
Although still poor, Newcastle’s home record is a lot better than the away record, earning 17 points out of 39 with 20 goals scored and 18 goals conceded. Bournemouth’s home form is identical to their away form; 14 games played winning four, drawing four and losing six both home and away.
All of that means Newcastle find themselves in 19th place with 24 points while Bournemouth are eight points ahead in 15th. The highest position Newcastle can end the weekend is 17th, just outside the relegation zone. This would require our relegation rivals Norwich and Sunderland to fail to win in their fixtures. Bournemouth can potentially move up one place to 14th, overtaking Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace side should Bournemouth win and Pardew’s 11 game winless run extend to 12.
It’s starting to look like the sthe relegation scrap will be between the current bottom seven; Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Swansea, Sunderland, Norwich, Newcastle, and Aston Villa. Starting with today’s match, Newcastle play each of the other six named sides as part of their 11 remaining games this season, putting survival very much so in their own hands. It should be noted that Newcastle have a game in hand over all of their relegation rivals, however this is against Manchester City so unlikely to result in an addition to the points tally.
Bournemouth should be in high spirits heading into this fixture having just turned over Southampton in the South coast derby midweek. For Newcastle meanwhile it was the all too familiar despair of yet another defeat during the week. The latest at the hands of Stoke. In terms of recent form heading into this game, Bournemouth have won, drawn, and lost in equal measures in of their last six games, meanwhile Newcastle have won two and lost four.
This game will see Dan Gosling make his return to St James’ Park. The former Magpie was at most a bit part player for United, featuring just 24 times in almost four years on Tyneside. Though injuries did play a big par in his lack of game time. Gosling scored once for Newcastle, and so far has managed to double that tally for Bournemouth in 33 appearances. Gosling will no doubt be looking to show off his attacking threat in this fixture.
Tim Krul, Ivan Toney, Papiss Cissé, Gabriel Obertan, Massadio Haïdara, Chancel Mbemba, Fabricio Coloccini, Kevin Mbabu, Curtis Good and Sylvain Marveaux will miss out through injury.
Cheick Tioté and Andros Townsend are doubtful and will face late fitness tests. Meanwhile Vurnon Anita and Siem de Jong have returned from injury and got some match time under their belts in a behind closed doors friendly for the U21 team on Wednesday. Mirroring the excellent form of the senior side, the U21 team recorded a 3-1 loss against Hartlepool reserves.
Jack Colback is one yellow card away from a two game ban. If he was to pick up a booking he’d miss both the trip to the Premier League leaders and the Tyne-Wear derby.
As for the visitors; Callum Wilson, Tyrone Mings and Junior Stanislas will miss out through injury. Joshua King and Harry Arter are doubtful.
Having been impressed with his team’s performance against Stoke (I don’t know how) McClaren could very well name an unchanged side. He’ll also likely persist with the same formation, tactical set-up and game plan that has seen Newcastle fall to 19th in the Premier League. If it was up to me I’d probably go back to basics; match Bournemouth’s 4-4-2 formation, play with two proper wingers and get crosses into the box for our centre forwards.
I’d expect Bournemouth to go with:
Smith – Francis – Cook – Daniels
Ritchie – Gosling – Surman – Gradel
Afobe – Grabban
A Word from the Gaffers
“We asked for a reaction after the Chelsea game and at Stoke it’s fine margins,” McClaren said. “We asked for spirit and fight and for them to stay in the game for 95 minutes, and they did that. But for a fantastic save from Jack Butland we’d have got a very good draw and something to build on. It obviously piles the pressure on that we didn’t get that result, but honestly the main focus is Bournemouth. A lot of people questioned the players as well – did they know the situation? I think we saw from the performance on Wednesday that yes, they do. I know that from the training field and the dressing room. We know the predicament we’re in, only we can get out of it. We said we were in a fight which started on Wednesday – we continue it on Saturday.
Absolutely [my players back me]. We’ve got the talent and we showed the character on Wednesday. I don’t read stories. My only focus is Bournemouth. Every game is a must-win game now. We need results. There’s a long way to go. In the home games fans have been terrific. We aim to win it tomorrow, it’s about fine margins. There’s a long way to go at the bottom. Results can change momentum. It is a results business. I know that. We need to stay in this league. We don’t want anything to destabilise what we are trying to achieve between now and the end of the season.”
“Eight points is not enough. We are well aware that fortunes can change. Last week it was four points and now it is eight, but it can change the other way very quickly if you don’t perform yourself. We need to take care of our business. Newcastle is another massive game in our season. With 10 games to go I think every game takes on huge significance because you are running out of games to get the points you need. Plus the fact that in the next two we are playing teams around us. These next two games, added to the next eight, are going to define our season.
I have watched several games in preparation and they [Newcastle] have performed well. The West Brom game [1-0 win on February 6] was a particular highlight where they were excellent, I felt. Their crowd will certainly get behind them and they have good players, a lot of international players with vast experience, so we do not underestimate the size of our task. If they get their game right, then it will be a tough game for us to win, but we have seen when we perform at our very best level, then we are also a very tough team to beat.”
McClaren seems to genuinely believe that our performance on Wednesday night was not only acceptable but good. That leaves me to conclude that he’s deluded. We were awful yet again and I don’t see that ever changing if McClaren is telling the players that sort of display is acceptable. I also think McClaren will bottle it with the tactics and once again fail to go with two up front. There has been a lot of speculation regarding McClaren’s future in the past few days with strong rumours that he could be sent packing should Bournemouth win this game.
Steve McClaren has got Newcastle playing dreadful negative football and vastly underachieving given the resources while Eddie Howe has Bournemouth playing attractive positive football and punching above their weight. Bournemouth come into this on the back of a great win against Southampton, confidence should be high and they will be aware that a win would go a long way towards reaching that sought after 40 point mark.
McClaren has shown throughout the season he’s lost the plot when it comes to team selection, formations, tactics and game plans. He also went off the boil in his press conference. The pressure seems to be getting to him and although he’s looked out of his depth all season it appears now he’s almost drown.
I predict Bournemouth will put the final nail in McClaren’s coffin and edge Newcastle United ever so closer to elimination from the top tier of English football. 1-2. Wijnaldum, Afobe and Gosling with the goals. I hope I’m wrong.
Where to Watch / Listen
Tickets remain available to the public at the time of writing and will remain on sale from the match day box office up until kick off. The match will not be televised live in the UK. Local radio commentary, as always, is on BBC Newcastle.
How do you think we’ll get on in this game? Have your say in our discussion thread.
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