Newcastle United will be looking to snap a two-game winless run in the Premier League when they welcome Brighton & Hove Albion to St. James’ Park on Thursday night in a potentially season-defining game.
Top-four hopefuls Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion face each other at St. James’ Park in a postponed Premier League game, which could prove pivotal to both sides’ European ambitions.
After falling to a 2-0 defeat in their last home game against Arsenal, Eddie Howe’s side did not pick up a victory against Leeds United last time out. But they at least banked a valuable point in a pulsating Premier League encounter at Elland Road over the weekend. Liverpool and Manchester United pounced on Newcastle’s slip to close the gap drastically.
With just one point separating third-placed Newcastle, Manchester United, and Liverpool, the Toon have next to no room for error when Brighton comes to town. It may seem the Tynesiders are bottling top-four at first glance. But keep in mind that this is the very same core that was plunged into deep relegation trouble just one-and-a-half years ago.
They have ventured a long way in a very short space of time and have improved in every department, with Newcastle supporters now more concerned about whether their team will be in the Europa League or the Champions League than relegation worries.
Newcastle are guaranteed a top-six finish and, at the very worst, will be playing in the Europa League. But Champions League qualification is still in their own hands. If Newcastle beat Brighton and then thrash Leicester City next Monday, the job is done. And if the Magpies beat Brighton and Liverpool lose to Aston Villa on Saturday, it will be a done deal for them, with neither the Reds nor the south coast club able to catch them in that case.
Brighton, meanwhile, responded to their 5-1 defeat to Everton by crushing Arsenal’s title hopes with a 3-0 thrashing last time out and now have an opportunity to put a dent in Newcastle’s Champions League push when the two sides meet at St. James’ Park.
The Seagulls have European aspirations of their own. But a top-four berth still looks like a long shot despite their win at the Emirates, with Manchester City on the horizon in the run-in as well. They look well-positioned to secure Europa League football, however, as they aim to qualify for a place in Europe for the first time in their history.
The reverse fixture between Newcastle and Brighton this season took place in August 2022, with the duo playing out a tense scoreless stalemate. Ahead of the latest encounter between the two sides, The Hard Tackle now takes a closer look at how both teams will line up and what could be the most probable outcome of the clash.
Team News & Tactics
Eddie Howe on Sean Longstaff:
"We're quite clear on the injury, it's just how long it takes to heal. He made good progress yesterday so let's see how he feels today. He won't be involved in this game." pic.twitter.com/b7hYnihx6v
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) May 17, 2023
Emil Krafth, Jamaal Lascelles, and Matt Ritchie are all set to miss the remainder of the season. This game may come too soon for Sean Longstaff, who remains sidelined with a foot injury. Ryan Fraser continues to train with the Under-21s. And Jacob Murphy is another doubt with a tight groin.
Nick Pope was the star for the Magpies at Elland Road as he saved a penalty in a sliding door moment. Had Patrick Bamford dispatched the spot-kick from 12 yards, Leeds would have been 2-0 up, and Newcastle United’s Champions League hopes could have been seriously hanging in the balance.
But the England stopper stood tall and then went on to make some key stops in the 2-2 draw. Brighton are good at chance creation, and when you couple this with Newcastle’s disjointed-looking backline, he could have his hands full in between the sticks for the Toon.
While the Magpies were a well-oiled machine in the first half of the season, their defensive standards have dropped since the turn of the year, with Howe’s side keeping just one clean sheet across their last 15 league games.
Still, being the best defensive unit in the Premier League, the back-four picks itself, with Fabian Schar and Sven Botman pairing up at the heart of the backline, flanked by Dan Burn and Kieran Trippier. The full-backs will face the difficult task of handling tricky Brighton wide players in Kauro Mitoma, Pervis Estupinan, and Julio Enciso.
While the idea of Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak playing together brings plenty of goals, it leaves the Magpies a bit short in midfield. Also, Newcastle miss a certain level of industry in their midfield when Longstaff isn’t there. To fill the void, Howe will be hoping that winger Miguel Almiron is back up to speed after introducing him back into the starting lineup against Leeds, as the Paraguayan runs and makes recovery runs like a maniac when in full fitness.
Bruno Guimaraes will anchor the sitting midfielder role. He gives Newcastle’s midfield guile that no other player can provide, even if he is only playing with one foot, and looking off-colour at present. Joelinton provides the muscle and Joe Willock gives energy. But both will need to be more defensively disciplined than in recent games to avoid turnovers in possession.
Allan Saint-Maximin impressed in a cameo from the bench against Arsenal and Leeds. He will be a useful bench option alongside Elliot Anderson and Anthony Gordon, and what a time it would be for him to get on the scoresheet for the Frenchman after enduring an injury-plagued season thus far.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Pope; Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn; Willock, Guimaraes, Joelinton; Almiron, Wilson, Isak
Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton will once again be without the services of key winger Solly March (hamstring), although Julio Enciso’s breakthrough has softened that particular injury blow. The latter was forced off with an injury against the Gunners but should recover in time for this crucial clash.
Adam Lallana (thigh), Jakub Moder (knee), Jeremy Sarmiento (ankle), and Tariq Lamptey (knee) all remain sidelined with injuries. Joel Veltman (thigh) remains an injury doubt, having missed the game with Arsenal on the weekend.
Jason Steele is set to start in goal. Centre-back Adam Webster is also struggling with a knock and that could see Levi Colwill again partner with towering Lewis Dunk in the centre of defence. Boss Roberto De Zerbi has no reason to tinker with his 4-2-3-1 formation with Ecuadorian duo Moises Caicedo and Pervis Estupinan playing the full-back role.
These two… 🇯🇵🇪🇨 #BHAFC pic.twitter.com/xnmzvXV57Y
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) May 17, 2023
The former can invert into a midfield role during games, but the latter’s devastating pace and athleticism mean he’s superb at offering width to influential winger Kauro Mitoma, producing strong overlaps and underlaps.
Pascal Gross and Billy Gilmour’s double-pivot offers Brighton control in the middle of the park thanks to their ball-playing and ball-carrying ability. Alexis Mac Allister will again be the creative fulcrum for De Zerbi’s side, with Enciso and Mitoma ought to provide the attacking impetus and provide penetration to their respective flanks.
De Zerbi’s big selection dilemma could come up top. Denis Undav has been in fine form and scored a goal and created one in a ten-minute cameo against Arsenal. But Evan Ferguson and Danny Welbeck have not really put a foot wrong recently and are viable contenders to play from the start.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Steele; Caicedo, Dunk, Colwill, Estupinan; Gross, Gilmour; Mitoma, Mac Allister, Enciso; Ferguson
- Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe has lost just one of his last eight Premier League meetings with Brighton (W5 D2), winning all four of his home games against the Seagulls in the top flight.
- The visitors have scored eight Premier League goals from teenagers this season (Evan Ferguson 4, Julio Enciso 3, Facundo Buonanotte 1), more than any other side. Manchester United scored the most such goals in a season in 2019/20 (11).
- Brighton have won eight Premier League games on the road this season. Only Manchester City (11) and Arsenal (12) have won more than the visitors.
- Newcastle United have won four of their last five home games. The Magpies have conceded in seven of their last eight games at St. James’ Park.
- Newcastle have preserved just one clean sheet in their last 15 Premier League games, a 2-0 victory against Manchester United in April.
Player to Watch
Callum Wilson has ice in his veins, as he scored twice from the spot at the weekend for the Magpies. But that was not enough to win the game in the end. The England international has now scored 17 goals in the Premier League alone this season, the most by a Newcastle player in a single top-flight campaign since Alan Shearer in 2003/04 (22). And with ten goals in his last ten appearances, we are backing the 31-year-old in-form striker to find the back of the net against Brighton on Thursday.
Newcastle United 2-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
The majority of Newcastle’s players have never been in a top-four race before. But they would be well aware of being in pressure situations with demands that are very similar to those that come when you’re in relegation trouble. Eddie Howe’s troops must come into this crunch in front of a sold-out St. James’ Park on Thursday night with a positive mindset.
Brighton are a side whose attacking ferocity is their best form of defence. Having said that, the Seagulls’ forward-thinking style tends to open up opportunities and spaces for their opponents to exploit. It will be interesting to see just how much the visitors have left in the tank after that remarkable but physically intense performance against the Gunners.
Roberto De Zerbi’s troops looked a little fatigued in their 3-1 and 5-1 defeats to Nottingham Forest and Everton prior to their win in North London. And they may struggle to pick themselves up again as they have a quick turnaround for this midweek fixture. Therefore, The Hard Tackle predicts a narrow win for the hosts, who will be energised throughout the game by their fanatic home support.
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