Nottingham Forest turn their focus to the Premier League on Saturday when they host Newcastle United at the City Ground.
The Tricky Trees advanced to the FA Cup fifth round by beating Bristol City via penalty shootout drama in the fourth-round replay on Wednesday evening. This ended their three-game winless run across all competitions.
Meanwhile, the Magpies drew 4-4 with Luton Town in a Premier League classic at St James’ Park on Saturday, failing to build on the excellent 3-1 success over Aston Villa at Villa Park. They are ninth in the table, 13 points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa.
With both teams needing points for different reasons at this stage of the season, let us look at the key battles that could define the outcome of this game.
#Callum Wilson vs Murillo
Alexander Isak will remain sidelined for the team’s next couple of games due to a groin injury, meaning Callum Wilson should have the chance to lead the Newcastle attack against Forest. A calf injury had kept Wilson out for a month but he finally made his comeback as a substitute in Newcastle’s 4-4 draw with Luton.
Despite enduring an injury-hit campaign, the England international has netted seven goals in 15 Premier League games. He will be hungry to get on the scoresheet at City Ground. Standing in front of Wilson will be Murillo, who has been Forest’s best defender in an otherwise disappointing campaign.
Since arriving from Corinthians in the summer, Murillo’s performances in a Forest shirt have proven how crucial he is to Nuno Espirito Santo’s side. Having been an unused substitute in the midweek FA Cup win over Bristol City, the 21-year-old will be relatively fresher than some of his teammates to face the Magpies.
#Taiwo Awoniyi vs Fabian Schar
From one end of the pitch to another, the battle between Taiwo Awoniyi and Fabian Schar will be an interesting watch.
A groin surgery in late November saw Awoniyi miss nine league games for Forest. His return from injury is a big boost for Nuno’s side, with the Nigerian striker scoring the decisive spot-kick in the shootout to take his side past Bristol City into the FA Cup fifth round in midweek. The 26-year-old is likely to be recalled into the starting XI for Newcastle’s visit on Saturday.
Stopping a fully-fit Awoniyi in attack is tough, as the Forest striker is strong and intimidating as well as has the pace to outrun defenders. This implies that Fabian Schar will have his work cut out at City Ground. During the injury absences of Sven Botman and Dan Burn earlier this season, Schar was the leader of Newcastle’s rearguard, and he along with Botman will have to be alert to stop Awoniyi from getting into goalscoring positions.
#Morgan Gibbs-White vs Bruno Guimaraes
Morgan Gibbs-White is among the first names on Nuno’s team sheet due to his technical skills and great off-the-ball work rate. The Englishman provides greater balance to Forest’s midfield, while his work rate can prove key in forcing turnovers and leading the press in central areas. He often operates from the no.10 role, meaning the 24-year-old could repeatedly come face-to-face with Bruno Guimaraes in Newcastle’s midfield this weekend.
Bruno has been excellent throughout the campaign for the Magpies, although he hasn’t enjoyed great support from his fellow midfielders. Yet, the Brazilian continues to shine in his deep-lying playmaker’s role, and given the fact that Gibbs-White is dangerous in the final third, Bruno will have to be able to match the Forest star stride for stride in both halves.