Newcastle United head to the King Power Stadium on Boxing Day to play Leicester City aiming to pick up where they left off in The Premier League before the World Cup winter break when a win against Chelsea thanks to Joe Willock's stunning strike at St James' Park cemented The Magpies' third-placed position at Christmas:
And Newcastle will also face Leicester in The Carabao Cup Quarter-Final in early January after being drawn against The Foxes in the Last 8 of a League Cup competition that Eddie Howe's Mags will feel they can genuinely win as the Saudi Arabia-backed Mags kickstart their inevitable dominance of English football:
That was the reward for a gritty win against Bournemouth on Tuesday night when Newcastle overcame stubborn resistance from The Cherries to win 1-0 in normal time with Adam Smith being forced into an own goal error in the second half:
Meanwhile, former Magpie Ayoze Perez scored for Leicester in a 3-0 win against MK Dons with this nice touch and finish against The League One outfit:
and Brendan Rodgers' men will be up for the Cup after winning the FA Cup in 2021.
Currently, the Foxes are 13th in The Premier League after a disastrous start to their top flight campaign saw them rooted to the foot of the table without recording a win until October 23rd against Wolves but recent form has improved and they go into the game on the back of back-to-back Premier League wins against West Ham & Everton:
Attacking midfield star James Maddison got the opening goal that day but left the field injured and didn't play a minute for England in Qatar despite travelling to The World Cup as part of Gareth Southgate's 26-man squad but is a man that Newcastle have been heavily linked with in the transfer market and as well as being represented by the same agents as Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood, Maddison spoke of interesting conversations with the three Newcastle players - Trippier, Callum Wilson & Nick Pope - in the squad:
Whether a bid will be forthcoming in January for Maddison remains to be seen but the Leicester man was in red hot form in the first half of the season scoring 7 goals in 14 games this season and, while he would be a great addition to the Newcastle squad, he's also a man to keep a close eye on as an opponent in Monday's game especially after last season when a dubious dive earned The Foxes a penalty for the first crucial goal:
It was a game-changing decision and Dermot Gallagher on RefWatch described Maddison as "very, very lucky to get a penalty" and suspicions were roused when the referee who awarded it, Peter Bankes, left the field backslapping with the Leicester player and guess who is the VAR for Monday's game? One Peter Bankes, who was also meant to be refereeing Newcastle - Bournemouth before pulling out with an illness.
With Newcastle hoping to maintain the Champions League spot they are in at the moment for the remainder of the season, the club will be wary of a repeat of the dodgy decisions which plagued the start of their campaign and arguably, The Magpies could be top of the Premier League had they had a better deal from the officials:
One of those decisions - the decision by Lee Mason to disallow a Joe Willock goal against Crystal Palace and deny Newcastle a win and two points - was featured in a Premier League release this week among six VAR intervention 'errors' of the season so far and, unsurprisingly to me but perhaps shockingly others, Mason was responsible for 3 of the 6 errors and surely cannot continue as a VAR official in The Premier League:
Back to the football...and Eddie Howe will be hoping to pick up where Newcastle left off with that stunning run of form sparked by Miguel Almiron's goals and defensive mettle that saw The Magpies unbeaten in 10 Premier League games and lose only once in all competitions this season and that was to a disputed 98th minute goal at Anfield.
Dutch defender Sven Botman has been a revelation on Tyneside since his summer move and Newcastle have never lost since he forced his way into the starting line-up and have kept nine clean sheets in his 16 appearances so far:
And French winger Allan Saint-Maximin will be hoping to force his way back into the starting line-up after battling with injury most of the season so far:
In his pre-match presser, Eddie Howe paid tribute to Newcastle's owners who have donated £150,000 to the West End FoodBank for Winter provisions along with a club programme of help in the community that will make a big difference to local people:
...and Howe spoke of the "elite" game he anticipates against Leicester in The Carabao Cup Quarter-Final:
On the injury front, Howe said that record signing Alexander Isak won't play any part in the Premier League game hopes to have him back and playing a big part in January:
And the Newcastle manager heaped praise on Sven Botman, who is fast being recognised as one of the best centre backs in The Premier League & beyond:
Howe was relishing a busy festive programme and nobody would bet against Newcastle hitting the ground running in The Premier League again. HoweAyTheLads!
Prediction - Newcastle 3 Leicester 1