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

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 20: Newcastle United team take part in a minute's silence in memory of Cyrille Regis ahead of during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at Etihad Stadium on January 20, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 20: Newcastle United team take part in a minute's silence in memory of Cyrille Regis ahead of during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at Etihad Stadium on January 20, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) /

With the highs and lows of February out the window, a fresh slate of March fixtures offer Newcastle United the chance to consolidate their Premier League status.

Despite an impressive victory over Manchester United, the four points Newcastle dropped from winning positions in February will weigh heavy on the mind of Rafa Benitez as we enter the final ten games of the 2017/18 Premier League season.

The Toon have made a habit of losing leads this campaign, yet March presents four fixtures instead of February’s three, and Benitez will be looking to take full advantage – especially at St. James’ Park where Newcastle have been disappointing so far and must improve.

3rd March: Liverpool (Away)

Arguably the toughest fixture of March, Newcastle will need to come out strong from the off as Benitez visits the stadium where he first found success in English football. Liverpool have won three of their last five games and are undefeated at home coming into this match (a record only leaders Manchester City share in the Premier League).

Liverpool have only conceded ten goals in their 14 home matches so far, balanced by a remarkable tally of 31 goals scored. In their last game they comfortably dispatched David Moyes’ West Ham 4-1 at Anfield, and have been in fine form in both the Premier League and Champions League.

Regardless of Liverpool’s ability, Newcastle have found success away from home this season, recording 13 of their 29 points away from Tyneside which places them tenth in the away form table. A 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture back in November will give the Toon confidence, even if it was in front of the St. James’ Park faithful and not in the lion’s den on Merseyside.

Rafa Benitez will no doubt be preparing for a defensive performance at Anfield, a task made tougher by the potential absence of ex-Liverpool man Jonjo Shelvey.

Prediction: 3-1 Liverpool

10th March: Southampton (Home)

This is where the month gets interesting. Far removed from what could be a morale-testing trip to Liverpool, Newcastle will have a fantastic opportunity to not only record three points against Southampton, but prevent the South Coast side from leapfrogging them in the table.

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With both sides having one win, three draws and a loss from their previous five games, Newcastle fans will be itching to see their side prove their worth at St. James’ Park against a fellow relegation threatened side. The reverse fixture saw Benitez’s men give away a penalty and ultimately two points as the result was a 2-2 draw at St. Mary’s (a common theme with this Southampton team as they have recorded 12 draws – the most in the Premier League).

Perhaps a contrast in styles, Southampton enjoy lots of possession and attempt to play expansive football, but they lack a true goalscorer and the result is many flat, uninspiring performances. They currently sit one place and two points below Newcastle in the table.

The raucous St. James’ Park crowd should motivate Newcastle to put the Saints on the back foot right away, with an early goal likely leading the Toon to victory if lessons have been learnt from the 2-2 draw at Bournemouth last Saturday.

Loanee Islam Slimani is expected to miss both the Liverpool and Southampton matches through a recurring injury, but encouragement can be taken from Dwight Gayle’s recent two-goal performance.

Prediction: 2-1 Newcastle

16th March: Tottenham Hotspur (Away)

If the Liverpool game wasn’t frightening enough, a trip to Wembley Stadium mid-March may just do the trick.

Spurs are on a league leading ten-match unbeaten run at the time of this writing, and the last time they lost at home was all the way back in August in a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea. Similarly to Liverpool, Spurs have won three of their last five EPL games, boasting wins over Arsenal and Manchester United. The last time the two sides met was at St. James’ Park in August, where Spurs ran out comfortable 2-0 winners following a Jonjo Shelvey red card.

Benitez will be aware of the threat of the Premier League’s top scorer Harry Kane, and therefore it would not be surprising to see a backs-to-the-wall, all-out defensive game from the Toon. Adept at playing a high pressure style of football, Mauricio Pochettino has his side vying for second place in the EPL, the Champions League trophy and the FA Cup this season.

This style of football alongside the sheer number of fixtures for the Argentine coach may lead him to rest some of his best players against Newcastle, although unfortunately this is more of a hope than a nailed-on reality.

Prediction: 1-0 Spurs

31st March: Huddersfield (Home)

Swapping North London for Tyneside, a visit from newly-promoted Huddersfield Town could be a welcome one following the Spurs fixture. The Yorkshire side are currently on a two-match winning streak, but lost three games in a row previously and also have to face Spurs at Wembley in March.

Edging the reverse fixture 1-0 back in August thanks to a 50th-minute Aaron Mooy goal, Benitez should have his side raring to go in what could be a season-defining match for both sides. Huddersfield sit one place and one point above Newcastle in the table in 14th, but have lost nine of their 14 away matches in the league, conceding a whopping 28 goals in those games and scoring only ten.

Providing Slimani faces no further setbacks in his recovery, the Algerian striker will almost definitely be available for this fixture, and what better way to mark a debut than scoring at St. James’ Park against one of your relegation rivals.

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Huddersfield have been wildly inconsistent this season following a promising start to their campaign, so with the margins getting tighter and tighter as March draws to a close, Benitez should be able to coach his team to all three points in a cagey affair likely devoid of much quality.

Prediction: 1-0 Newcastle