Newcastle United host Wolverhampton Wanderers at St James' Park on Friday night hoping to end a run of three consecutive defeats to Chelsea, Everton & Spurs in only the second game The Magpies have played at home in the last 7 Premier League games.
Eddie Howe's men are now 15th in the table after threatening to crash the Top 10 while on that 9-match unbeaten run that was cruelly ended by a referee and VAR robbery at Stamford Bridge and Newcastle's 5-1 defeat at Spurs on Sunday wasn't free of controversy either with refereeing expert & former world best referee Mark Clattenburg insisting Rodrigo Bentacur should have been sent off for attempting to headbutt Allan Saint-Maximin:
Spurs' tactical game plan revolved around hacking & intimidating Newcastle's danger man Saint-Maximin & referee Martin Atkinson & VAR Paul Tierney did little to intervene in Antonio Conte's anti-football first half approach although Newcastle did take the lead from a Fabian Schar free-kick following a foul on Joe Willock which the Swiss defender cooly slotted home:
The goal received an extremely thorough VAR check that proved the technology was working - reassuring to know as many Newcastle fans have formed the belief that its switched off when The Magpies play in The Premier League such are the bad decisions that regularly befall the team and club on the pitches of England's top flight and Peter Bankes' appointment as referee on Friday night will not allay any fears about the neutrality or bias of officials:
Yet Wolves have had their own reasons for complaint about Premier League officiating this season, not least away at Man City when Raul Jimenez was sent off for two yellow cards in 40 seconds before the decisive goal of the game arrived from a dodgy penalty and more recently when Jimenez was sent off for an accidental collision at Leeds:
Wolves are currently at a more than respectable 8th place in the Premier League table having kicked on under new manager Bruno Lage and will be looking to end their season on a high and qualify for Europe so still have everything to play for although they will be without the suspended Raul Jimenez and injured Ruben Neves, two of their stars.
They beat Aston Villa 2-1 last week & have won three of their last 4 games in The Premier League but are yet to draw a match in 2022 although both games between the two sides last season ended in a 1-1 draw at St James' Park and Molineux.
This season, Lage's men beat Steve Bruce's Newcastle side 2-1 at Molineux in the last match before The Magpies were finally taken over by the Saudi-backed consortium led by Amanda Staveley with Hwang Hee-Chan scoring twice:
If that was a low moment for Newcastle as the team slumped winless to 19th place with just three points from 7 games and all hope at all a premium on Tyneside, the adage "Its always darkest just before the dawn" rang true as The Magpies became the richest club in the world within a week & spent the most money in Europe in January to climb out of the bottom three although its not quite job done yet.
Newcastle Must Keep Relegation Wolves At The Door
After last night's Burnley win over Everton, Newcastle are now seven points above the drop zone with The Toffees sinking like a stone although The Magpies still need a result or two to guarantee safety with a hard run of fixtures to end the season coming up.
Three consecutive home games against Wolves, Leicester and Crystal Palace can go a long way to banishing any remaining relegation fears amid accusations that Newcastle's players already believe they're safe after the terrific run up the table.
Eddie Howe has always insisted that Newcastle are still in a relegation battle but he was dwelling on the positives as ever in his pre-match presser before Wolves looking forward to his side playing once again with the Magnificent crowd behind them:
While Howe spoke of illness that has dogged the squad over the past few weeks, he ended any ridiculous speculation about Allan Saint-Maximin's future at the club by saying he loves working with the French star, the best dribbler in The Premier League:
Howe spoke of his disappointment at Newcastle's second half collapse at Spurs and he may shuffle his cards with skipper Jamaal Lascelles and Sean Longstaff coming into contention with both having played superbly at Chelsea a few weeks ago ahead of another tough game but one that Newcastle are more than capable of winning.
Prediction - Newcastle 2 Wolves 1