Newcastle United will host Birmingham City in a replay of their FA Cup third round fixture tomorrow.
After a 1-1 draw at St Andrews, Birmingham City and Newcastle United are forced to play a replay to decide who moves on to the next round of the FA Cup. In truth, Newcastle is 100% focused on winning the EFL and returning to the Premier League, so an FA Cup run is not a priority. NUFC will want to play a decent brand of soccer in front of their home crowd, and come away with no major injuries, unlike the Brentford match. The replay will be the first match Jonjo Shelvey is available for following his misconduct ban, and will be a good way to ease him back before another EFL fixture Saturday. Here are three ways they can either win, or at least have a positive day, tomorrow at St James’ Park.
1. Stay healthy
This is the most important key, but also the one that’s the hardest to control. There are the obvious moments in a match that you can avoid: sliding in for a dangerous tackle, charging hard at the keeper in hopes of a last minute chip, etc. Playing too cautiously, or thinking about avoiding an injury too much, often results in an injury. After losing three players against Brentford, the Newcastle players will need to just play conservatively, and also hope for some luck, to leave the match unharmed.
2. Seize the moment
In addition to the players at the Africa Cup of Nations, and the three players injured Saturday, the club will also be without Sammy Ameobi, Haris Vuckic, and Jamie Sterry, due to them being cup-tied from their loan spells this season. With a league fixture on Saturday, the more regular starters they can reasonably rest, the better. For players like Achraf Lazaar, Massadio Hiadara if he’s fit, and even Matz Sels, it’s an opportunity to impress with the first team. Whether it’s to audition for a loan or transfer from Tyneside, or to earn more time in the rotation, they must show their class. If any U-23 players are called up, it’s especially important that they make a mark.
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3. Get Shelvey started
In a five match ban that felt like an eternity, the Magpies struggled offensively without their creator, Jonjo Shelvey, in the middle of the attack. His misconduct ban was completed after Saturday’s match, and he is now available for selection. This replay is a huge inconvenience, but it does provide a perfect warmup match for Shelvey ahead of his return to EFL play. Ideally, they will get him out there, moving the ball around, shake the rust off, and sub him off in the second half. With Dwight Gayle out, it will be important for Shelvey to develop a rhythm with Ayoze Perez and Daryl Murphy up front. It may not be pretty coming back from almost a month away from competitive matches, but it should springboard him to getting back to his normal self sooner than later. That is great news to everyone who has suffered through some rough offense in his absence.