Newcastle United and Manchester United will be eyeing to bounce back immediately from their frustrating Champions League results when they square up against each other at St James’ Park on Saturday evening in the Premier League.
The Magpies had to settle for a 1-1 draw in Paris following a controversial stoppage-time penalty awarded to Paris Saint-Germain—which Kylian Mbappe scored, while the Red Devils played out a thrilling 3-3 draw with Galatasaray in Istanbul. Both Newcastle and Man United’s Champions League fate are now out of their hands following the results in midweek, regardless they win against AC Milan and Bayern Munch respectively on the final matchweek.
With both managers Eddie Howe and Erik ten Hag seeking a response from their boys, let us take a look at the key battles that could define the outcome of this exciting Premier League clash.
#Alexander Isak vs Man United centre-backs
Since returning from a groin injury, Alexander Isak has scored for Newcastle in back-to-back games against Chelsea and PSG. The Swede is Newcastle’s top scorer with nine goals in all competitions and his strike almost gave Eddie Howe’s side victory in the Champions League in Paris, only for Kylian Mbappe to equalise via a controversial penalty decision.
Nonetheless, Isak will be heading into the game in a buoyant mood and he will be licking his lips at the prospect of facing a leaky Man United defence. With his pace and movement, he will look to occupy the United centre-backs—expected to be Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof.
Both Maguire and Lindelof aren’t the quickest of defenders and could face problems in keeping track of Isak’s wily movements in and around the box. So, they will need to be exceptionally alert and positionally sound to keep the Newcastle striker quiet.
#Bruno Guimaraes vs Bruno Fernandes
This midfield battle is certain to dictate the script on Saturday. Newcastle under Eddie Howe have come to depend heavily on Bruno Guimaraes’s ability to move the ball around and create opportunities from a deep-lying playmaker’s position. On the other hand, Bruno Fernandes remains the beating heart of this Man United side and has been integral in their resurgence of late.
The Man United skipper scored a worldie in the 3-3 draw with Galatasaray in the Champions League on Wednesday, and he will be looking to have a pop at Nick Pope’s goal whenever there are opportunities. Bruno, who loves getting into a fight and controlling games for his side, must limit the Portuguese playmaker’s influence in the game by not allowing him time and space on the ball.
If the Brazil international can keep Fernandes under wraps, Newcastle’s chances of winning the game will become higher. In contrast, if Fernandes can get the better of Bruno in this midfield battle, Man United could walk away from St James’ Park with a positive result.
#Anthony Gordon vs Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Anthony Gordon has arguably been Newcastle’s best player this season. His drive, energy, flair and work rate has made him one of the first names on Eddie Howe’s team sheet. The Englishman put in a solid shift in Newcastle’s 1-1 draw with PSG, bombing up and down the left flank throughout the game.
Given the 22-year-old’s form, he will need to be neutralised by Man United. Fortunately, they have one shining armour in their arsenal that is a match for the Gordon. Of course, we are talking about Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who kept the tricky Wilfried Zaha at bay in United’s 3-3 draw with Galatasaray.
Excelling in tackling and interceptions, Wan-Bissaka, who is expected to get the nod over Diogo Dalot at right-back, will need to make use of his long legs to good effect to stop Gordon from getting past him. He has performed well since returning from injury and should be key in reducing the Newcastle winger’s dynamic attacking influence. The challenge for Gordon will not only be to get the better of the United right-back but also to be clinical in front of goal.
All in all, the winner of this individual battle will have a big say in the result of the game.
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