Verdict: Newcastle win
Best Odds: 19/20
Starting the New Year with two consecutive wins, Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle side will fancy their chances of making it a hat-trick of victories on Saturday afternoon. Playing host to a Swansea side who still remain rock-bottom of the Premier League table, a win for the Magpies could see Newcastle break into the top half of the table for the first time in over four months.
After enduring a dismal run of form that saw the Magpies only manage to pick up a single point from nine Premier League matches between October and the end of December. Rafa Benitez’s side had suddenly found themselves dragged into a relegation dogfight. Despite the clubs high-profile take over yet to be confirmed, Newcastle’s Spanish tactician has somewhat managed to relieve some of the pressure on the north-west side. Last weekend, the Magpies managed to comfortably progress to the fourth-round of the FA Cup after beating League Two leaders Luton Town at St. James’. Although Newcastle may have embarked on a nine-game winless run at the back end of 2017, last years Championship winners have now only lost once in their last five outings, that solitary 1-0 defeat coming against runaway league leaders Manchester City. Although the Magpies may be sat 13th in the Premier League table, Benitez’s side only remain two points adrift of the drop zone. For Newcastle, if the Toon Army want to extend their top-flight stay to a second season, the Magpies will have to pick up points from the teams around them. After recently taking points off West Ham, Brighton, and Stoke, three points for Newcastle on Saturday afternoon could see them break into the top half of the table.
Newcastle pair Rob Elliot and Chancel Mbemba are available after respective thigh and knee injuries.
Aleksandar Mitrovic, Florian Lejeune and Jesus Gamez are still sidelined.
As for the Swans, they will be hoping that former Sheffield Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal is the man to guide them to Premier League safety. After picking up just five points out of an available 39, Paul Clements tenure at the Liberty Stadium came to an end in December. For Swansea’s new boss, he will know that he will face an uphill struggle to secure the Swans Premier League status come May. Seeing his new side battle back to pick up three vital points against Watford last month. Although Swansea may have shown some slight signs of recent improvement, the Welsh side still only have managed to pick up one win in their last seven appearances. Sat bottom of the Premier League table, Swansea are now four points adrift of safety and also hold the second worst goal difference in the league. After seeing Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente move on last summer, Swansea’s major problem this year has been a lack of creativity in the final third. Managing to score just 13 goals in their 22 Premier League matches, no side in England’s top flight has scored fewer goals than the Swans.
Swansea will assess Renato Sanches, who has a hamstring problem, and Tammy Abraham, who is nursing a hip injury.
Angel Rangel is out with a calf strain but Ki Sung-yueng and Leon Britton are fit after a similar injury, and Leroy Fer is available after his red card against Wolves was rescinded.
Key Factors to Consider
- The Magpies have earned successive Premier League victories against Swansea, having won just one of their first nine against them in the competition.
- Newcastle could go seven successive games without a Premier League home win for the first time since a run of eight in a row from December 2008 to April 2009.
- United could keep three consecutive clean sheets in the Premier League for the first time since November 2014.
- The Swans won for the first time in eight away games last time out against Watford.
- Tammy Abraham has now gone 15 games without scoring a goal. The England international had previously scored five in his first 10 appearances for Swansea.
Although Rafa Benitez’s side have struggled at St. James’ this season, their 0-0 draw against Brighton last month ended their nine-match losing streak at home. Picking up consecutive wins against Luton and Stoke, Benitez will feel confident about improving on Newcastle’s recent turnaround. Coupled with Swansea losing seven out of their last eight matches away from the Liberty Stadium, backing Newcastle to leave St. James’ with three crucial points seems like the most logical bet here.
Verdict: Newcastle win
Best Odds: 19/20
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