EPL

Fortress St James' and brilliant Bruno – Why Newcastle could be kingmakers against Liverpool or City

By Sports Desk April 29, 2022

Few would be surprised if Manchester City and Liverpool, the Premier League's two dominant teams, each won their five remaining matches this season.

Liverpool have 12 victories in 13 games, with their sole aberration a 2-2 draw against City.

Yet that run will not be enough to take the title should City themselves continue to win, maintaining a tiny one-point gap that represents a chasm in this rivalry.

Perhaps the distraction of huge Champions League tasks could instead encourage one side or the other to take their eyes off the prize – or maybe a Premier League rival can provide an upset.

Liverpool must still tackle two of the other three opponents to have taken points off City this term (Tottenham and Southampton) but first face a team transformed since they were swatted aside by both the Reds and the champions back in December.

As back then, Newcastle United take on Liverpool and City in consecutive matches. The top two also each have Wolves and Aston Villa to play, yet it is Eddie Howe's men who look primed to be kingmakers.

After all, in this calendar year, Newcastle represent the best of the rest. Only Liverpool (2.7) and City (2.3) have earned more points per game than Newcastle (2.1), who are actually ahead of City (30) in terms of a 2022 total (32).

So, heading into a daunting double-header comfortably in midtable after 150 days in the relegation zone this season, could Newcastle shake things up?

Fortress St James'

The last time Newcastle beat Liverpool, Georginio Wijnaldum scored one goal and created the other. He has since been relegated with Newcastle, joined Liverpool, won the Champions League and the Premier League and moved on again.

The Reds are 10 without defeat against Newcastle, including a four-match unbeaten run on Tyneside – albeit two of those clashes were behind closed doors. Newcastle have failed to win in five successive home league games against Liverpool only once previously, back in the 1960s.

Liverpool did come out on top the last time they played in front of fans at St James' Park in 2019 but only courtesy of a controversial late winner. The hosts were clear of relegation trouble with little to play for after a strong second half to the season, while the visitors briefly set aside a Champions League semi-final in their pursuit of City.

That sounds familiar, and the home crowd are likely to be up for it again, with Jurgen Klopp remarking last time: "Is there any history between Newcastle and Liverpool that I don't know about? The atmosphere was like something happened in the past."

Howe's side have their own streak to extend this weekend, meanwhile, having won six Premier League games in a row at home for the first time in 18 years.

In fact, only three times previously in the competition have Newcastle enjoyed a longer such stretch at home, even if their 1995-96 record run of 14 wins remains a long way out of reach.

City at least have the benefit of playing Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium, although the Magpies' four away wins this season have all come since the turn of the year.

For the first time since 1996-97, Newcastle have won three games in a row on three separate occasions, including an ongoing run of four straight victories in which they have conceded only once...

Built from the back

Newcastle's development into a solid defensive outfit was far from expected. They ended 2021 having conceded a record 80 Premier League goals for the calendar year, while Howe's Bournemouth team shipped at least 61 in each of their five seasons in the competition.

A 3-3 draw at home to Brentford in his first match in charge hinted at the continuation of a campaign of chaos, and Newcastle were still conceding 2.3 goals per game – on course for more than 86 for the season – when City won 4-0 at St James' Park in December.

However, Howe – widely considered an attacking coach – spent time at Atletico Madrid in his spell out of the game, and Newcastle have since represented something akin to Diego Simeone's side.

They have conceded more than once in only a single game since the City defeat, an uncharacteristic 5-1 collapse at Tottenham that included four home goals in just over 20 minutes either side of half-time.

Again, only Liverpool's Alisson (10) and City's Ederson (seven) can top Martin Dubravka's six league clean sheets for Newcastle in 2022, when he has let in 13 goals in 15 games – or a hugely impressive eight in 14 outside Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Dubravka has played a key role in keeping Newcastle up in previous seasons, but this time the players in front of him are doing the bulk of the work.

Newcastle have allowed their 2022 opponents chances worth 1.0 expected goals per game, third behind City (0.6) and Liverpool (0.9). Their defence is sixth in terms of shots faced over this period (10.8 per game) and fourth for shots on target faced (3.1 per game).

The Magpies will back themselves to frustrate either Liverpool or City, yet the top two have won 10 of the 17 games this season in which they have scored no more than a single goal, so Howe's men will have to threaten at the other end, too.

Brilliant Bruno Guimaraes

Outsiders have attributed much of Newcastle's upturn to their January investment in new players, yet that ignores the improvement of previously failing individuals like Joelinton and Emil Krafth – key men in a side missing England internationals Callum Wilson since December and Kieran Trippier since February.

Howe is therefore yet to come close to naming his strongest Newcastle team, but that XI will undoubtedly have his most expensive signing, Bruno Guimaraes, at the heart of it.

With Trippier likely still out, Guimaraes is perhaps the one Newcastle player who would not look out of place in either the Liverpool or City line-ups.

The Brazil midfielder has been as outstanding as expected both in and out of possession, showing the quality that helped Lyon to knock City out of the 2019-20 Champions League.

Guimaraes has completed 85.8 per cent of his passes in the Premier League, the highest rate of any Newcastle player to play 500 or more minutes since their promotion in 2017, while also averaging a tackle every 24 minutes – third behind Arthur Masuaku and Liverpool's Naby Keita this season.

What was not anticipated was the goal threat Guimaraes has also brought. After scoring three times in 56 Ligue 1 games with Lyon, the 24-year-old has four in 13 – including just seven starts – at Newcastle.

Since first breaking into the Newcastle XI, only Cristiano Ronaldo (eight), Son Heung-min (six) and Gabriel Jesus (five) have found the net on as many occasions in the Premier League.

"Goals aren't the strongest part of my game," Guimaraes insisted when he arrived in England, but he poses as big a danger to Liverpool and City as anyone, looking to extend his streak of goal involvements in three straight matches.

Guimaraes spoke in that same interview of winning the Champions League during his time at Newcastle, while his agent this week suggested the club would be targeting qualification as soon as next season.

These next two fixtures present Guimaraes and Newcastle with the opportunity to test themselves against the best Europe can offer – and potentially decide the Premier League title race in the process.

Related items

  • Mead, Oberdorf and Putellas in running for UEFA Women's Player of the Year award Mead, Oberdorf and Putellas in running for UEFA Women's Player of the Year award

    Beth Mead, Lena Oberdorf and Alexia Putellas have been announced as the final three contenders in the running to win the 2022 UEFA Women's Player of the Year accolade.

    The trio had been named on the initial shortlist of 22 players, which has now been whittled down to just three names ahead of next week's award ceremony in Istanbul.

    Arsenal attacker Mead is rewarded for an impressive showing at the Women's Euros, where she was crowned Player of the Tournament after leading the scoring charts in England's triumph on home soil.

    Oberdorf won the Young Player of the Tournament award after helping Germany to another final, having also played a crucial role in Wolfsburg winning the domestic double last season.

    Spain star Putellas was absent from the tournament through injury, but the 2021 Ballon d'Or Feminin winner enjoyed the most prolific season of her club career thanks to 34 goals in Barcelona's clean sweep of Spanish trophies in 2021-22.

    Wolfsburg and Germany striker Alex Popp narrowly missed out on the top three, while Aitana Bonmati of Barcelona and Spain finished fifth in the voting.

    UEFA also announced the Women's Coach of the Year nominees on Wednesday, with England coach Sarina Wiegman joined by Sonia Bompastor and Martina Voss-Tecklenburg of Lyon and Germany respectively.

  • Emery braced for 'unwanted' exits amid Foyth to Barca talk Emery braced for 'unwanted' exits amid Foyth to Barca talk

    Villarreal head coach Unai Emery is braced for "unwanted" departures before the transfer window closes amid reports that Juan Foyth is a target for Barcelona.

    Barca are said to have turned their attention to right-back Foyth after Cesar Azpilicueta decided to stay at Chelsea.

    The Yellow Submarine are reported to have told LaLiga rivals Barca they would have to fork out €42million to take the Argentina international to Camp Nou before the end of the month.

    Emery, who signed a five-year deal when he joined Villarreal from Tottenham in June 2021, revealed Foyth is not fit for a Europa Conference League play-off tie against Hajduk Split on Thursday.

    Yeremy Pino has been linked with Emery's former club Arsenal and Emery knows he may lose key men, but says both players are happy at the club.

    He said during a press conference on Wednesday: "It is not affecting us. The market closes on August 31 and it does not make much sense, although those who make the decision will see some sense.

    "In England they wanted to change the date, but in the end it was detrimental to the English market. The logical thing would be close at the beginning of August. Juan Foyth is not going to be here tomorrow because he has discomfort.

    "What can affect us is that there may be unwanted exit movements. What harms the most is something unforeseen, such as a significant clause payment or the player considers an offer very attractive."

    He added: "About these latest rumours that have come out of Yeremy and Foyth, we are testing how the players can be. Foyth is very happy here, grateful to the club and to what he is experiencing here with us.

    "He gives me a lot of peace of mind. He is not available. You have to know what the club thinks, which we know, and the player, which we already know. What Barcelona thinks, I don't know."

  • West Ham sign Germany defender Kehrer from PSG West Ham sign Germany defender Kehrer from PSG

    West Ham have signed Germany international defender Thilo Kehrer from Paris Saint-Germain in a reported £10.1million (€12m) deal.

    Kehrer has penned a four-year contract at London Stadium with the option of a further two years and becomes West Ham's sixth signing of the window.

    The 25-year-old has spent the past four seasons with PSG and played 128 times for the Ligue 1 side, a tally bettered only by five others since the start of the 2018-19 season.

    He won seven trophies with the Parisians, including three Ligue 1 titles, and was part of the squad that reached the 2019-20 Champions League final.

    At international level, Kehrer has been capped 20 times by Germany, with no player featuring more times since Hansi Flick took over as head coach in May 2021. 

    Kehrer, who was into the final year of his PSG contract and had also been linked with Sevilla, is now looking forward to beginning a new chapter in the English top flight.

    "I'm very excited to sign for West Ham," Kehrer, who can play at left-back or centre-back, told his new club's official website.

    "This is the best league in the world and I'm excited about coming to play in the Premier League. I talked to the manager and he told me about how he sees me fitting in at the club. 

    "My biggest goal now is to get into the team, integrate myself within the group and enjoy playing for West Ham."

    Kehrer follows Nayef Aguerd, Alphonse Areola, Gianluca Scamacca, Maxwel Cornet and Flynn Downes in joining West Ham this window.

    David Moyes' side have begun their Premier League campaign with back-to-back defeats without scoring and next face Viborg in a Europa Conference League qualifier on Thursday.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.