As we enter the closing stages of the season Newcastle United find themselves inexplicably in a relegation battle, although having said that we deserve to be in this position; the entire season has been littered with mundane performances with little attacking threat and chaotic defending at times. It’s difficult to think of any games we came out of feeling genuinely aggrieved or unlucky (Man U at home the only one off the top of my head) and our few victories have mainly been tight affairs where we’ve edged our opponents out and rode our luck at times.
Make no bones about it this will be a tough game to get anything from, Leicester have been putting in battling performances all season and in the past month have finally been turning their good performances into good results. Their strikers will run all day and work channels and the team as a whole is able to sustain spells of pressure by playing high tempo football and getting balls into the box; all of which are aspects of play that have been lacking in this United side all season. They were soundly beaten in the second half by Chelsea when their players seemed to just tire out, hopefully this will be a factor on Saturday but in all honesty it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they came out looking the more energetic side.
In regards to the starting line-up it looks as though Daryl Janmaat is ok to start this game which is a massive boost, Paul Dummett could return which would be vital as this Vurnon Anita at left back patter just needs to stop; not since that fateful night in Alkmaar have I seen a full back so hopelessly exposed. Sissoko is back from suspension and despite all our reservations and ill feeling towards him at the moment he is the best player at the club and if he can regain the form he had in November then he will be able to drag us over the line in this relegation battle. Riviere is expected to start as Carver looks to play two strikers in an attempt to keep the ball in the opponents half for longer than five seconds, whether Ayoze or Siem de Jong play off him remains to be seen.
As a footnote, as I’m sure you’re aware the club have been in the news off the field this week as Sports Direct were the subject of a Channel 4 documentary highlighting their use of zero hours contracts, disciplining staff for being unwell and the free advertising they receive at St. James’ Park. All of these are things which we were well aware of beforehand but what’s appalled many supporters is the clubs quick response to the documentary and evident desire to minimise the potential damage caused by this documentary, a stark contrast to its silence in regards to on-field aberrations in recent years. Reading the clubs response made me feel a little sad, to tell you the truth; the badge that adorned almost everything I valued as a kid now being used to justify everything I stand against. It’s as though the emotional attachment is being slowly severed, if it hasn’t been already.