Who could have guessed that Newcastle would be involved in a relegation six-pointer after doing so well last season, but this is exactly what their next match against Reading is going to be. The Magpies can finally escape the danger zone with three points from this match, but the Royals will see it as a chance to further close the gap behind safety.
Make or break time
It is fair to say that nobody expected Newcastle to be involved in the relegation tussle after they narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification last term, but there have been some obvious reasons for this major downtrend. Even if Alan Pardew signed a couple of talented players to improve the strength in depth ahead the hectic schedule at the start of the season, he was unfortunate to have key midfielders Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa pick up injuries and miss most of the games during opening exchanges. With Steven Taylor, Ryan Taylor, Gabriel Obertan, Haris Vuckic and Shane Ferguson also missing quite a few games, the Magpies just couldn’t hit the ground running and ended up finding themselves in the dangerous zone. However, things have started to improve of late, with Cabaye, Steven Taylor and Gabriel Obertan all returning, and the good news is that Hatem Ben Arfa is set to follow. After doing well to hold Norwich to a goalless draw, Newcastle can be trusted to return to winning ways against arguably the weakest side in the elite division.
Yohan Cabaye returns to the starting line-up, but Steven Taylor and Hatem Ben Arfa are unlikely to be in contention.
Six straight defeats on the road
Operating on a very tight budget, Reading officials just couldn’t sign quality Premier League players in the summer, but it was surprising to see them spend most of their budget on Championship footballers. The lack of quality and experience in the side, as well as Brian McDermott’s clash with important players Alex Pearce and Danny Guthrie, were the main reasons for the dismal start to the season and a run of seven straight defeats in November and December. The Royals have since shown some improvement, recording lucky wins at home against West Ham and West Brom, but their away showings still leave a lot to be desired. Reading have now lost last six Premier League games on the road, failing to score in four of those, so I really don’t see how they are going to improve that record against very good Newcastle side.
Alex McCarthy and Jason Roberts remain sidelined, while Mikele Leigertwood and Hal Robson-Kanu are injury doubts.
With several important players returning to the side, Newcastle should look much better against Reading and this is clearly a perfect opportunity for the Magpies to return to winning ways. The Royals have been utterly disappointing on the travels this season and they look set for yet another defeat.
Top pick: Home win 1.80 (4/5) @ Ladbrokes
Alternative pick 1: Newcastle to lead at half-time 2.38 (11/8) @ BetVictor
Alternative pick 2: Newcastle to win to nil 3.75 (11/4) @ 888sport
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