|Newcastle United 1 v 1 Leeds United|
Barclays Premier League
Friday, 14th April 2017 Kick-off 19:45
Match Preview: Newcastle United v. Leeds United - Can the Whites Clip the Wings of the Magpies?
Friday, 14th Apr 2017 14:11 by @LucasMonk_
After accomplishing a stunning reclamation of winning form with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Preston North End at Elland Road last Saturday, Leeds United make an arduous journey to St James’ Park tonight, as they prepare to do battle with prospective champions Newcastle United (7:45pm).
The many virtues of the superlative performance delivered by Garry Monk’s side last week were exemplified in the display of Kemar Roofe. The 24 year-old exuded aplomb, equanimity and elan, putting the visiting defence to the sword by netting his third goal of the season while also assisting Pablo Hernandez for United’s second of the match.
With five matches remaining, those salient qualities are necessitated for each and every encounter against each differing opponent, and must be manifested by the players as a collective. In Leeds United’s present position, required of the coaching and playing staff are gravitas, fortitude, and an unwavering desire for success.
Tonight’s opponents Newcastle present an altogether divergent proposition than that posed by Preston North End. Under the tutelage of Rafa Benitez, the Magpies currently occupy second place within the league table, and trail title rivals Brighton and Hove Albion (coincidentally managed by former Newcastle boss Chris Hughton) by a mere two points.
While the Tyneside club appear destined to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking, there will doubtless be an acute sense of disenchantment among their expectant supporters should they fail in their endeavours to supersede Brighton and claim the Championship title for their own.
With the Magpies’ coaching staff, players, and fans united in their determination to avenge last week’s vanquishment at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday, St James’ Park shall function as a cauldron of fervour; with Leeds firmly anticipated to succumb to defeat as a great many supporters observe, in what shall be one of the most intriguing and sternest tests of their abilities thus far this season.
In the reverse fixture at Elland Road all those months ago in November, Leeds were subjected to much opprobrium for having appeared to have shown excessive deference to their counterparts, who comfortably secured a 2-0 victory with relative ease. Whether or not tonight’s encounter will bear a resemblance to that match remains to be seen, and it should be noted that Garry Monk’s charges have enhanced themselves considerably since that day.
The absence of Dwight Gayle, an agile and fleet-footed 26 year-old forward and the scorer of a mightily impressive tally of 22 league goals this term, will surely be felt by the hosts. Formerly of Peterborough United and Crystal Palace, and having scored twice against Leeds in the last meeting between the two sides, Gayle shall miss out due to a hamstring injury sustained during the defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.
In addition, defender Ciaran Clark, one of the Magpies’ most stellar performances throughout this season, is also sidelined with a knee injury. DeAndre Yedlin, Rolando Aarons, and Isaac Hayden, will also be unavailable for selection by Rafa Benitez.
Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame are expected to partner one another in central midfield, while a start is almost certain to be conferred upon the hefty former Ipswich hitman Daryl Murphy.
Rumours persist that Marco Silvestri, who has served as an auxiliary goalkeeper at Elland Road this term in spite of being a first-team regular for the previous two seasons, could miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery.
Meanwhile, defender Liam Cooper serves the third game of a six-match ban, while fledgling full-back Tyler Denton continues to be blighted by injury.
The tenacious midfielder and club captain Liam Bridcutt, who was notably contracted to Newcastle’s bitter rivals Sunderland between 2014 and 2016, could be recalled to action after an achilles injury. Likewise, Sporting Club De Portugal loanee Hadi Sacko is also hopeful of a return, after recuperating from an ankle problem.
Newcastle United (4-2-3-1) - Darlow; Anita, Lascelles, Mbemba, Dummett; Diame, Shelvey; Ritchie, Perez, Gouffran; Murphy.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1) - Green; Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Berardi; Bridcutt, Phillips; Roofe, Hernandez, Pedraza; Wood.
Newcastle United (2nd in Sky Bet Championship, with 84 points from 41 matches)
Top Goalscorers: Dwight Gayle (22), Matt Ritchie (11), Ayoze Perez (6).
Most Assists: Jonjo Shelvey (8), Matt Ritchie (7), Ayoze Perez (5).
Highest Statistical Average Rating: Ciaran Clark (7.30).
Record in 2016-17 (League) -W; 26, D; 6, L; 9.
Goals For: 74
Goals Against: 35
Goal Difference: + 39
Last 5 Matches: LDWWL
Leeds United (5th in Sky Bet Championship, with 72 points from 41 matches)
Top Goalscorers: Chris Wood (27), Souleymane Doukara (6), Pablo Hernandez (5).
Most Assists: Pablo Hernandez (8), Kemar Roofe (6), Charlie Taylor (3).
Highest Statistical Average Rating: Pontus Jansson (7.57).
Record in 2016-17 (League) - W; 22, D; 6, L; 13.
Goals For: 55
Goals Against: 39
Goal Difference: + 16
Last 5 Matches: DWLLW
Media: Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez and Leeds United head coach Garry Monk
Rafa Benitez has been effusive in his praise for opposing manager Garry Monk during his preliminary encounters with the assembled press before the match.
Speaking to Newcastle United’s official website, Benitez remarked: “He has done a great job. I think he is a good manager. I could see at the beginning of the season - when they were under pressure - that still he was doing well, improving, and winning a lot of games in a row, and they are in a good position now because of that.”
The illustrious Spaniard, who has enjoyed a distinguished career at the highest level having managed Valencia, Liverpool, and Real Madrid in the past, finished by describing his side’s last encounter with the Whites, as well as assessing his own side’s prospects ahead of the match.
“We did really well in the first game. Hopefully we can play at the level we used to play - especially when we played against them. The last two games at home, we won - (people were saying), ‘Oh, they were difficult games’ - yes, but we won. I think we have a clear idea - we have to give everything to try and win this game. It doesn’t matter the name of the other team.”
Meanwhile Leeds United head coach Garry Monk utilised his obligatory pre-match media duties to declare that tonight’s opponents are “an exceptional team”.
“Newcastle are obviously one of the best sides in the league, their objective at the start of the season was very clear, to win automatic promotion and they are on course to do that,” began the 38 year-old.
“They are an exceptional team, they have a very big and talented squad and they are where they are expected to be.
“We will go up with the same attitude as always, we have good confidence from the win over Preston North End and we want to prove what we are capable of in these last five games.
“We will try and pose ourselves, play our football, defend well which we will have to do at St James’ Park and try to give a good account of ourselves.
“When we are at our best we know we can beat anybody in this league, we know it will be very difficult to do that, but we go up there with that intention,” Monk concluded.
In league competition, Newcastle have taken 22 points from their last possible 27 against Leeds; winning on seven occasions, drawing once, and losing once.
Kemar Roofe recorded his third goal of the season against Preston in his last outing, and has not yet scored in successive league games for Leeds - he last achieved this feat in the Football League for Oxford in March 2016.
Rafael Benitez's three previous games as a manager against Leeds have all culminated in wins for the Spaniard, each with with Liverpool, Chelsea and Newcastle respectively - however, this is his inaugural home match against the West Yorkshire side.
Newcastle United: Jonjo Shelvey, Midfielder (7.21 Average Statistical Match Rating)
A Romford-born playmaker of 25 years, Shelvey has recorded the most assists of any Newcastle United player this season (8), while also aiding his side’s cause further by scoring five goals himself. Possessed of technical aptitude, wondrous vision, and with a penchant for a sumptuous strike from range, the former Swansea midfielder will be responsible for the orchestration of many a Newcastle move tonight.
Fact: While on loan to Blackpool in the 2011-12 Championship season, Shelvey netted a hat-trick against Leeds at Elland Road, in a resounding 5-0 victory for the Seasiders.
Leeds United: Pontus Jansson, Defender (7.57 Average Statistical Match Rating)
The 26 year-old has undergone a career renaissance since his loan move from Torino in the summer of 2016, and has firmly established himself as an adored favourite of the Leeds United supporters in only his first season in English football. Armed with bullish strength, and ataraxy when under pressure (a virtue for which many defenders would kill), the Swedish international will be tasked with mitigating the potent attacking threat posed by Newcastle United with his abrasive style and aerial proficiency.
Fact: Jansson started his career with Malmö in his native Sweden, becoming an Allsvenskan champion in the 2013 season.
Writer’s Prediction: Newcastle United 2-1 Leeds United
As my prediction intimates, I do not foresee, nor do I demand, a victory, or even a draw. To have to do battle with a learned side teeming with virtuosity, in front of 52,000 supporters, is by no means an insurmountable task, but for many of the Leeds United players, it will be the most stern test of their abilities that they will have ever faced.
To have defeat inflicted upon us in this match will not constitute having been disgraced. Newcastle are a side of ruthless efficiency, with potency in attack and expertise in the art of defence, having been assembled to the tune of inordinate sums of money.
This match should be treated as an educational experience; from which the players can gain much that will stand them in fine stead for the season’s remainder.
Statistics derived from WhoScored.com
Photo: Action Images
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