Newcastle United vs Wolverhampton Wanderers key battles

Newcastle United host Wolverhampton Wanderers at St James’ Park in what should be a competitive game in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon.

The Magpies were outclassed by Arsenal 4-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday night. They responded by beating Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup fifth round on Tuesday, punching their ticket to the quarter-finals of the competition as a result.

Meanwhile, Wolves’ 1-0 win over basement club Sheffield United at the weekend saw them leapfrog Newcastle into eighth spot. Gary O’Neil’s side remain firmly in the hunt for a European spot and three points in Tyneside would create a four-point gap between them and their opponents.

That said, let us look at the key battles that could define the outcome of the game.

#Anthony Gordon vs Nelson Semedo

Anthony Gordon is a threat for any full-back/wing-back. He has tormented defences with his explosive pace, directness and elusive movement this season, and given his form, the Englishman will need extra attention from Wolves on Saturday.

In Newcastle’s 4-3-3 system, Gordon is expected to operate from the left flank, and in that case, he should come up against Wolves’ right wing-back Nelson Semedo. As the 23-year-old is a relentless presser, Semedo may need to hold himself back at times and not push forward at every opportunity. He must deal with Gordon before thinking of venturing forward in a bid to contribute in the final third.

#Pedro Neto vs Bruno Guimaraes

Wolves are expected to line up in a 3-4-3 formation, with Pedro Neto operating as an inside forward from the left flank. He has shone during his time at Wolves, establishing himself as one of the most exciting young attacking players in the Premier League. The Portuguese has bagged nine assists in 17 appearances, making him among the most productive creators in the Premier League this season.

Neto is particularly a potent weapon in transitions, which should be a cause of concern for Eddie Howe’s side. Keeping that in mind, Bruno Guimaraes will have his task cut out. Arguably Newcastle’s best player this season, the Brazil international is press-resistant, a good reader of the game, tenacious tackler and extremely hardworking off the ball.

As Gary O’Neil’s side are heavily reliant on Neto’s creativity, Bruno has to be switched on from minute one until the last to tame the opposition’s most dangerous player.

#Alexander Isak vs Wolves centre-backs

At the other end of the pitch, how Wolves’ back three deal with Alexander Isak will be an intriguing watch.

Isak has endured another injury-hit campaign at St James’ Park, and his absence for some periods has hurt the Magpies. He has an eye-catching tally of 10 goals in 18 Premier League appearances, and with the Swede recently returning from injury, Howe can set up his team the way he wants.

The 24-year-old will be a huge threat, meaning Wolves’ potential back three of Craig Dawson, Max Kilman and Toti Gomes have to be on their toes throughout the game to keep him at bay. Expect Isak to make runs behind the Wolves’ rearguard time and again, as Newcastle look to play direct and feed their striker well at the weekend.

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