Newcastle welcome Watford to St James' Park on Saturday, desperately in need of a win that would drag them out of the bottom three
After getting busy in the transfer market during the first half of January, Newcastle United play their first league game since December 27th when Watford visit St James’ Park for a relegation six-pointer on Saturday.
Eddie Howe’s side were embarrassed in the FA Cup last weekend by League One Cambridge United, who dumped the Magpies out at the 3rd round stage to amplify just how big a job keeping Newcastle in the Premier League will be this season.
In response, the Geordies have gone out and signed Chris Wood from relegation rivals Burnley for £25m, and the New Zealand international will be in the squad for a debut in what is a must-win for both sides.
Watford are teetering just above the bottom three as things stand, and have lost their last seven games in all competitions, with their last win coming in November against Man United.
Since then, Claudio Ranieri’s side have been unable to build on the result that saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sacked, and if Newcastle can pile on more misery by claiming just their second win of the season, the Hornets will slip into the bottom three.
If the Magpies are to get that all-important win, Wood will likely be central to it. He should start up front in the absence of Callum Wilson, who is out for around 8 weeks with a calf injury. Isaac Hayden, Federico Fernandez and Jamal Lewis are all out as well, and Javier Manquillo is suspended. Ciaran Clark and Karl Darlow’s availability is unclear after both missed Newcastle’s last league match through positive COVID tests, but logic suggests they’ll be back involved. Kieran Trippier will make his Premier League debut for Newcastle after signing from Atletico Madrid earlier this month.
As for Watford, they have seven players definitely missing, meaning Ranieri’s squad is stretched to it’s capacity. Imran Louza, Adam Masina and William Troost-Ekong are all the the African Nations Cup, while Ismaila Sarr, Peter Etebo and Nicolas Nkoulou are all injured. Emmanuel Dennis, Kiko Femenia, Ben Foster and Christian Kabasele are all 50/50 with various knocks and problems.
Despite the injury list possibly working against the Hornets, recent history is firmly on their side. In the last 11 meetings between the sides, Watford have lost just once to the Magpies, emerging victorious seven times.
If that record continues on Saturday, Watford can put five points between themselves and Newcastle. If Eddie Howe can lead his new-look team to their second league win of the season, they could move out of the bottom three and ease relegation fears.
Newcastle United take on Watford at St James’ Park on Saturday, January 15th. Kick-off is at 3pm.