Newcastle United are looking to make it three wins in a row on Saturday as they welcome Stoke City to St James’ Park. This fixture hasn’t been one of the neutrals during recent seasons as there have only been five goals during the last five meetings. The Potters have won three of those, while the other two were draws. The last time that the Magpies triumphed was back in 2013. That said, Stoke haven’t fared well at St James’ Park since their promotion to the Premier League in 2008 and have only won once in the North East.
Rafa Benitez will be back on the touchline this weekend after recovering from his hernia operation. Although Newcastle managed to win last weekend, it will be a huge boost to have their manager back involved on a match-day. The disappointment of the transfer window has started to pass and the focus will be doing the best they can with what is at the club.
Stoke have had a great couple of results against Arsenal and Manchester United at the start of the new season, but it is a different challenge to motivate players for a match against a team outside of the top-six. That is a problem that Mark Hughes has had during recent seasons. They have a talented group of players, but they haven’t progressed as they would have liked and it is matches like these that they often slip up in.
The Magpies have recovered from a poor start initially to win their last two fixtures. They are well organised and will look to play counter-attacking football this season as that suits the players that are at the club. During the first four matches, they have only conceded one goal with eleven players on the pitch and that is an encouraging stat for a promoted team.
It has been a good start to the season for Stoke after many wrote them off as potential relegation candidates. After losing their opening match to Everton, they managed to take points from Arsenal and Manchester United. One win, two draws and a loss gives them something to build on, which they will look to do this weekend.
Benitez is difficult to predict when it comes to team selection and the strength of their bench last weekend showed that he does have options available to him. Despite Jesus Gamez’s good performance against Swansea, the Magpies’ boss could choose to switch Javier Manquillo to left-back and bring DeAndre Yedlin into the team for his first appearance of the season. Christian Atsu is also likely to come into the team.
Mark Hughes won’t want to make many changes as his team performed well against Manchester United. Geoff Cameron was brought off with an injury and he is unlikely to be risked this weekend. Ryan Shawcross could make his return to the starting eleven after a minor injury.
Chancel Mbemba is back in full training and could return to the match-day squad. Karl Darlow is another player on his way back, but they could persist with Freddie Woodman as the back-up goalkeeper. Paul Dummett won’t feature.
Geoff Cameron and Ryan Shawcross are major doubts for the trip to Tyneside. Ibrahim Afellay and Stephen Ireland remain long-term injury concerns. Neither will feature on Saturday.
Score prediction: Newcastle United 1-0 Stoke City
Stoke haven’t fared well at St James’ Park and that will be a record that plays on their mind this weekend. This won’t be a game that produces many goals and one could be enough to take the points. Newcastle’s recent good form and home advantage means they are favourites to win the match. It would be a great achievement to win three matches on the bounce and they should have enough to do that, especially with Benitez back on the touchline.