Newcastle United will be looking to wade away from the relegation infested water when they host Manchester United this weekend at the St. James’ Park.
The Magpies have been on a downward spiral after their impressive start to the season. Rafael Benitez’s men have registered only three victories since matchday six and are currently dawdling on the wrong side of the table.
Manchester United, on the other hand, will be confident of their chances of beating Newcastle this weekend, following their morale-boosting 2:0 win over Huddersfield Town. That being said, however, anything can happen in the uncertain nature of the Premier League and you certainly wouldn’t put anything past the highly unpredictable Newcastle United.
Here are three key battles which might decide the outcome of the game.
Alexis Sanchez vs Newcastle United Defence (!)
Newcastle head coach Rafael Benitez has struggled to find the right combination in the defensive department this season. That being said, however, the Magpies have still fared very well compared to the likes of Brighton, Huddersfield and Stoke City, on the defensive front.
But their defensive solidity will be put to the ultimate test against Alexis Sanchez this weekend. The Chilean superstar will be full of confidence after scoring his first goal for the club last week and stopping him will be imperative for the Newcastle defence.
The onus will be on the fullbacks as well as the central defenders to keep a constant check on his runs in behind the defence. It will be interesting to see how Sanchez fares against a relatively stubborn Newcastle defence this weekend.
Dwight Gayle vs David de Gea
Islam Slimani’s absence due to injury will be a huge blow for coach Rafa Benitez. Therefore, the Spaniard will be banking on Dwight Gayle to provide the necessary attacking incision in the final third. Gayle has scored three goals in the Premier League this season.
That being said, however, the 27-year-old will be up against arguably the best keeper in the world in David de Gea. The Manchester United superstar has already kept 15 clean sheets this season and will be eager to extend his tally against Newcastle.
Jonjo Shelvey vs Paul Pogba
The battle between the two dynamic midfielders will be an interesting sight this weekend.
Jonjo Shelvey is expected to play an integral role in the Newcastle midfield. The former Liverpool player has the dynamism to prevail in the Premier League but will be up against French superstar Paul Pogba, who is expected to return to the starting lineup, after missing out last week.
Shelvey will be tasked with the responsibility of stopping the attacking influence of Paul Pogba, particularly in the half spaces, where the Frenchman becomes so dangerous.
Stats Courtesy: Whoscored