Newcastle United: A preview of the club’s February fixtures

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 23: Mohamed Diame of Newcastle United celebrates victory during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Newcastle United at London Stadium on December 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 23: Mohamed Diame of Newcastle United celebrates victory during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Newcastle United at London Stadium on December 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) /

An uninspiring January for Newcastle United brings forth a heightened sense of urgency for the final months of the Premier League season.

Toon fans have voiced their discontent in recent weeks, as the January transfer window had proved to be a muted affair for Newcastle United until deadline day.

Chelsea youngster Kenedy has joined the Magpies on-loan for the rest of the season, followed by Sparta Prague goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and Leicester striker Islam Slimani, who also arrive on short-term deals.

Hardly spoilt for choice this season, Rafa Benitez’s side showed in January why these recent arrivals are the bare minimum for the upcoming relegation battle. 1-1 draws at home to Swansea and Burnley have highlighted the inability of the Toon’s forwards to be clinical in front of goal, and with the difference between tenth and the relegation zone a mere five points, every goal matters going forward.

4th February: Crystal Palace (Away)

A visit to Selhurst Park marks the first of Newcastle’s three games in February. Palace sit only one place and two points ahead of the Toon who are in 14th, but they are a robust side with raucous home support. Palace have been resurgent since starting the season seven games without a win, but with margins as tight as they are, Newcastle must not show too much respect to fellow struggling sides.

Containing the attacking threat of Wilfried Zaha will be the number one priority for Benitez’s men, and it would not be surprising to see a defensive approach especially if Slimani’s reported thigh injury keeps him out of action for a week or two. Yet, Kenedy looked a real difference maker against Burnley and 24-year-old captain Jamal Lascelles is a threat from set pieces. If Newcastle play a committed 90 minutes, there’s vital points to be had here.

Prediction: 1-1 Newcastle

11th February: Manchester United (Home)

Losing the reverse fixture 4-1 at Old Trafford in November, it would be optimistic to say Newcastle should get points in this one. However, in holding Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at St. James’ Park in October, the Toon have shown that on their day they can grind out a result at home.

United are a star-studded side, and bolstered by the addition of Alexis Sanchez in January they will try and take the game to Newcastle. Losing last time out to Tottenham 2-0, there are weaknesses in Jose Mourinho’s side, but it will be difficult for Newcastle to exploit them when you consider the sheer gulf of class between the two teams. Manchester United play Huddersfield before this fixture, so there’s a good chance they will be coming off a victory when they make the trip to Tyneside.

There’s no doubt Newcastle will put up a fight, and playing at home will offer a boost without question, but this is not the match that will decide the Premier League survival status of the Toon come May.

Prediction: 3-1 Manchester United

24th February: Bournemouth (Away)

If ever there was a grudge match for Newcastle this season, it’s this trip to the South Coast where revenge will be sought against AFC Bournemouth. Fans will remember the dramatic moment in November when Steve Cook’s 92nd-minute winner left stunned silence at St. James’ Park. Bournemouth were undeserved victors on the day and no doubt the Toon players will be itching to set the record straight.

More from Newcastle Toons

Bournemouth sit tenth in the Premier League on 28 points, and their recent victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge marked perhaps the greatest-ever victory in the Cherries’ history.

With the potential to score a lot of goals, 40-year-old manager Eddie Howe has his side playing attacking, possession-based football, but experience will be on Newcastle’s side as Rafa Benitez will have almost two weeks to prepare. Islam Slimani should be fully fit and in the starting eleven for this fixture, and Bournemouth’s weakness is in their defence.

A good result for Newcastle here will be a product of effective wing play, and we’ve already seen Jacob Murphy prove his counter-attacking chops this season. As long as the midfield can support the Algerian forward, and turn Bournemouth’s expansive style into goalscoring opportunities, three points are on the cards for the Toon.

Prediction: 2-1 Newcastle

The Verdict

March will not be kind to Newcastle United, so after a disappointing January fans and players alike understand the importance of turning draws into wins in February. Playing away from home is never easy in the Premier League, but with the table so compact there is nowhere left to hide for Rafa Benitez if Newcastle continue to drop points.

Next: Lejeune is no longer a first-choice CB for NUFC

Kenedy has looked a promising signing in his first time out against Burnley, but the striker position is where the Toon have been most ineffectual. If Islam Slimani can hit the ground running, February can be the foundation for at least one more year of Premier League action on Tyneside.