The Toon Tribune: Why Newcastle could have an impact in the title race

With three games left of the 2018/19 Premier League season, we are entering a hugely important period with a great deal still to play for.

Cardiff and Brighton remain in a battle to avoid the last place in the relegation zone; with two teams already down. Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are all fighting for a position in the top four, while Manchester City and Liverpool are head-to-head in what is one of the closest title run-ins in recent history.

Out of all the mentioned duels, the most anticipated is undoubtedly the title race. Millions of football fans are eager to see if Liverpool will end their long-running title drought or if City will claim a second consecutive crown.

One team who will be more relaxed is Newcastle United. The Magpies secured their Premier League status after a 3-1 win over Southampton last week, coupled with Cardiff’s 2-0 loss at home to Liverpool.

Although safety seemed likely a few weeks prior, it is now guaranteed for the Toon, who can now afford to play with freedom. However, given manager Rafa Benitez’s competitive nature, he will not allow his side to be complacent, while intending to finish the season as strongly and in as high a position as possible.

The Magpies entertain Liverpool next week in their final home fixture of the season, with the match being rescheduled to kick off at 7:45pm on May 4th due to the Reds’ involvement in the Champions League. While neither Manchester City or Liverpool can afford to drop points, as well as a late kick-off time, the eyes of the whole world will be set upon a raucous St James’ Park under the floodlights.

Out of Liverpool’s remaining fixtures: Huddersfield (H), Newcastle (A), Wolves (H), the match at St James’ Park is arguably the toughest. The Magpies are in great home form, winning six out of their last seven in the North East.

In addition, Newcastle have found themselves to become a solid outfit, with Rafa Benitez deploying a 3-4-3 formation this season which has worked to good effect; the Magpies have picked up the most points outside of the top six since November, proving for good reading among the Toon Army.

While the fixture may seem like a routine victory for Liverpool on paper, it is not so straightforward. In fact, the Reds have a poor recent record at St James’ Park and are without a win since 2013; albeit a 6-0 hammering in what was a dire campaign back then for United.

Fast forward to 2019, with those days long gone, the Magpies faithful are fairly optimistic and intend to comment this solid season in telling manner, so much so that the game completely sold out within an hour of tickets being released.

The foundation of Newcastle’s success this season has been solidity at the back. United defend compact, dropping to a back five when not in possession. This, in turn, frustrated the opposition, while the attack seems to convert chances in addition, in recent weeks.

The acquisition of Miguel Almiron in January has enhanced the Magpies’ attack, while also proving somewhat of a catalyst for recent victories. Almiron’s directness and pace has taken some pressure off fellow forward Ayoze Perez, with the Spaniard now flourishing since the arrival of ‘Miggy’; However, unfortunately for Newcastle, Almiron is out for the season after sustaining an injury in the win over Southampton.

On the other hand, Liverpool’s front-foot style of play may well fit in to United’s hands. If the Magpies can prevent the Reds from winning, they may have a huge impact in the title race, as they almost did in January after defeating Manchester City in similar circumstances.