The stand out tie in the latest round of midweek Championship fixtures sees Norwich take on league leaders Newcastle at Carrow Road. In recent years this would have been a Premier League fixture, instead both sides have sights firmly set on returning to the top-flight.
Newcastle lead the charge but have been less convincing than expected, losing seven of 30 matches so far, albeit only drawing twice. Norwich, meanwhile, may feel fortunate to find themselves narrowly outside the playoffs, considering an awful run of form between October and mid-January. They have, however, dramatically improved since, amassing more points than any other Championship side in 2017.
The Canaries have won four of their last five, with a draw against relegation threatened Wigan spoiling a perfect run. They haven’t yet played any side from the top 10 in this period and Newcastle should provide a much sterner test.
The Magpies themselves have been indifferent of late, failing to get a run of wins. Nonetheless, star man Dwight Gayle is set to return, as reported by the club, after missing four weeks with a hamstring injury. With the Geordies now out of the FA Cup, attention will be solely on gaining promotion whilst wary of tough upcoming matches; including away trips to four of the top seven.
The reverse fixture in September saw a Gayle hat-trick as Newcastle completed a late turnaround; scoring twice inside injury time to win 4-3. Their most recent top-flight encounters ended 3-2 and 6-2; giving a staggering total of 20 goals from just three previous meetings.
Norwich and boss Alex Neil are high on confidence after demolishing Nottingham Forest at the weekend, having scored two wonder goals in the process. Results wise the side look unaffected from the loss of key players Martin Olsson and Robert Brady to Swansea and Burnley, respectively, in January.
Mitchell Dijks has performed well at left back since arriving on loan from Ajax and Alex Tettey returns from suspension to increase midfield options. Right-back stalwart Ivo Pinto may miss out following a knee injury at the weekend.
This is a Premier League clash in all but name. Both sides have maintained a core of experienced, quality players and are well equipped for the challenge of gaining promotion. Carrow Road will no doubt be rocking and you can expect the action to match the occasion.
Prediction: 2-2 Draw.
Paul Dummett’s Wales snub will please Newcastle United fans
The Welshman turned down an international call-up this week.
Paul Dummett has been one of the standout players for Newcastle United this season and his performances haven’t passed Ryan Giggs by.
The new Wales National Team manager has admitted that he has spoken to the left-back with a view to a return to the squad. The Chronicle reported the following quotes:
“I had a conversation with Paul Dummett, because he hasn’t been in the last few squads, and he just felt that it wasn’t the right time to come back.
“He wanted to concentrate on his Newcastle career which I have to respect, and we move on.
“He (Dummett) said that he wanted to concentrate on Newcastle’s relegation fight so I have to respect that at the moment. In the future we will wait and see.”
That will be music to the ears of Newcastle supporters and Rafa Benitez, as Dummett has emerged as a key player for the team since his return from injury.
This season in the Premier League, the Magpies have conceded only 13 times in the 12 matches that the 26-year-old has started.
That underlines how effective he has been and his importance to the team’s chances of staying in the top-flight.
Although he may not be the most exciting player to watch, Dummett is very good at carrying out a role for the team and it is no surprise that he has become one of Benitez’s most trusted lieutenants.
The Spanish manager enjoys to coach players that listen and carry out his instructions to the letter and his left-back certainly fits under that description.
A quick look at the stats shows how rounded Dummett is as a defender.
He averages 2.83 ball recoveries, 0.78 blocks and 6.85 clearances per ninety minutes. Meanwhile, he is very good in the air as shown by his aerial duels win rate of 57.41%.
He was once a scapegoat for Newcastle supporters and the focus of anger when things weren’t going well. The reason for that was his lack of technical skill, which would make him stand out on the pitch.
However, that side of his game has developed and he is now serviceable in possession. Dummett isn’t going to be cutting sides open with his attacking threat down the left, but he understands his own limitations and that has seen him improve as a player.
The 26-year-old has been part of Wales squads in the past, but he has only played once for his country and his lack of game-time may be a reason why he stepped away from the international arena.
Last summer, Newcastle issued a statement to explain why Dummett withdrew from the squad for the World Cup qualifier against Serbia, which featured the following quote:
“After a gruelling campaign with the Magpies, in which he played through the pain barrier on several occasions, 25-year-old Dummett is keen to recharge his batteries and spend time with his family and friends in order to ensure he is at peak form and fitness for his hometown team’s return to the Premier League and what promises to be a big campaign for both him and the club.
“He has been supported in his decision by Newcastle boss Rafa Benítez.
“However, Dummett – who has represented his country from youth level all the way to the senior team – has not closed the door on his international career and hopes to represent the Dragons again in the future.”
It is clear that Newcastle is the priority for Dummett, but it is interesting that he refused to close the door on Wales last summer.
A managerial change since then may lead to further opportunities for the left-back and it is easy to see why Giggs has already reached out to him.
The Newcastle full-back has developed into a Premier League calibre player under Benitez and he will offer an upgrade on the options currently in the Wales squad.
For him, as a player, it may be beneficial to play international football and gain experience at the highest level. Although he didn’t agree to come back at this time, it would be a surprise if he doesn’t return to the fold in the near future. Both parties would benefit from that.
Newcastle United fans are livid at Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad
Newcastle fans cannot believe Jonjo Shelvey is not in the England squad.
Gareth Southgate announced his latest England squad earlier today and for Newcastle United fans it was not well received. Newcastle fans were left dumbfounded by the absence of Jonjo Shelvey and Jamaal Lascelles.
Both players have been in good form for Rafa Benitez’s side this season but obviously not enough to make the England team.
The main reason why Newcastle fans have been so frustrated at the omission of the pair revolves around the players who have actually been called up by Southgate.
In particular, not many fans can understand how Jake Livermore gets the nod ahead of the Shelvey. Livermore has had a poor season with Premier League basement club West Brom and recently made headlines for the wrong reasons. He was one of several West Brom players reprimanded for stealing a taxi in Barcelona last month. Shelvey has outperformed the West Brom player throughout the campaign.
Southgate also gave debut call-ups to Burnley defender James Tarkowski and Swansea City centre-back Alfie Mawson. Their inclusion ahead of Newcastle captain also baffled many fans at St James’ Park. Whilst Tarkowski and Mawson have both had good seasons, it is hard to see how either has bettered Lascelles throughout the campaign.
Southgate has decided to experiment with that pair entering the fray, but for many, the Newcastle players were far more deserving.
Such sentiment is not reserved for just Newcastle fans either, with the majority of fans believing both Newcastle players deserved a chance.
This was seemingly both players last chance to make the England squad for the World Cup in the summer.
Here is some of the best reaction to the news on Twitter…
How on earth does Jake Livermore get in the England squad ahead of Jonjo Shelvey?
— Luke Edwards (@LukeEdwardsTele) March 15, 2018
Lewis Cook and Jake Livermore over Jonjo Shelvey. What’s Southgate smoking?
— NUFC 360 (@NUFC360) March 15, 2018
Cudnt care less about England and never have done for years now,livermore over shelvey just confirms why!
— Paul Wardle (@paulwallsend) March 15, 2018
Jonjo Shelvey is such an under-rated footballer and the fact Jake Livermore gets England caps ahead of him is mind blowing.
— David (@DTweeting101) March 10, 2018
Bad call from Southgate with the @England squad…Cook and Livermore over Shelvey?… Very disappointing
— camerongalloway_ (@djcgall) March 15, 2018
— Steven Lynn (@StevenLynn87) March 15, 2018
Livermore but no Shelvey? Whuuuuuut? #England
— Jack Bridgeman ? (@bridgeman_jack) March 15, 2018
— Matty (@m_atty90) March 15, 2018
Livermore in and not shelvey. Wtf ?????
— Craig Allen (@goobs9) March 15, 2018
Jonjo Shelvey getting overlooked for Jake Livermore ?? https://t.co/MC0t9kgxXX
— Leeming (@I_Leeming) March 15, 2018
Think Lascelles over Mawson any day but the criminal pick here is Livermore over Shelvey
— Myles (@MylesG_9) March 15, 2018
— CompleteNUFC (@CompleteNUFC) March 15, 2018
Livermore ahead of shelvey is an absolute JOKE. No lascelles is an even bigger joke.
— Stacy Young (@Stacyluvmusic) March 15, 2018
Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley must release funds to Kenedy this summer
The forward scored twice in the Magpie’s weekend victory over Southampton.
Newcastle United took a huge step to safety this past weekend thanks to on-loan winger Kenedy who scored a brace against Southampton. The rest of the results at the bottom went for the Magpies and optimism about their chances increased significantly.
There will be nobody on Tyneside getting too complacent, not least Rafael Benitez, but the manager could be forgiven for having one eye on the summer.
It promises to be a crucial one for the club as it remains on the market, while there will be more rumours about the future of Benitez. There has been friction between the board and the manager in recent windows, which will come into focus again this summer.
Regardless of his desire to sell the club, Mike Ashley needs to appreciate the worth of his manager and make sure that his biggest asset remains at St James’ Park.
A quick way to do that this summer will be to sign Kenedy on a permanent deal from Chelsea. The Mirror report that the winger will be available for £15 million and that would be a great price for a player with his quality. He has immediately improved Newcastle since joining and provided some much-needed quality in the final third.
During his first six matches, he has scored twice and got one assist. Considering Newcastle’s struggles in the final third throughout this season, Kenedy has provided end product that had previously been lacking. It is too soon to judge him fully, but he has come in and made an impact straight away in a team fighting relegation. That shows both talent and a good mentality.
The Magpies have been a working progress under Benitez this season. Their underlying numbers are good, but they have lacked the quality to produce the results required. Since Kenedy arrived, they have lost only one of their six Premier League matches and that came against an in-form Liverpool team.
As stated above, it is early days for the Brazilian at St James’ Park, but his attacking contributions have been impressive. The 22-year-old is currently averaging 1.02 chances created and 2.86 attempted shots per ninety minutes.
He hasn’t been perfect, with his decision making being questionable at times. However, he has stood out as one of the more talented players in the team and for that reason, he needs to be signed on a permanent deal.
Throughout his tenure as Newcastle United owner, Mike Ashley has been reluctant to spend big money and his penny pinching has only got worse as his desire to sell has increased. Since promotion to the Premier League, the club has spent just under £40 million, which isn’t enough to compete with the majority of clubs in the top-flight.
That needs to change as he needs to make sure Benitez doesn’t leave the club this summer, as it would derail any potential takeover. It is clear that the Newcastle manager would like to bring Kenedy to the club on a permanent basis and if Ashley can make that happen, it will go a long way to protecting his investment.
At the age of 22, there is potential for a big profit in the future, as Kenedy would surely develop on Tyneside under Benitez. The money in the modern game has become silly, but at £15 million, Kenedy would represent value.
He has already emerged as a key player for Newcastle and his importance will increase with game-time. This is a deal that Mike Ashley simply must make happen.
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