The run for the Championship title will go down to the wire as Newcastle United and Brighton and Hove Albion kick-off at the same time this Saturday. Rafa Benitez’s side have been close to unbeatable for the most of the season, bottling things up just at the end. The Magpies currently trail Brighton by one point.
And though promotion to the Premier League was their primary objective, given the huge money Benitez had invested in the squad last summer, there was little doubt of that not happening. The real success for the Spaniard would be, however, winning one of the most difficult leagues in Europe.
The thrilling season filled with hectic fixtures and the unpredictable outcomes will come to a positive conclusion for the former Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli and Liverpool manager, only if Newcastle leapfrog their biggest opponents at the death.
Newcastle host 14th placed Barnsley FC next and Benitez should expect a routine win for sure given how easily they had managed a convincing 2-0 win in the reverse fixture last year in October. However, Barnsley’s away form has been surprisingly good as they have collected 29 from 22 away games and could make it tough for their opponents this weekend.
Brighton, on the other hand, can only cement the title with a win, and given that they face Aston Villa, it will always be a difficult job.
Possible Newcastle XI vs Barnsley
Karl Darlow will start under the bar. The manager had opted to start with 31-year-old Rob Elliot against Cardiff giving the English shot stopper some rest from the midweek fixture, but he is expected to return for this game.
The back line will be a big concern for Benitez against a confident away playing side. With skipper Jamaal Lascelles, out for the season with a groin injury, Chancel Mbemba, might take his place. He is yet another young centre-half to have impressed this season from the bench indicating the thick core of talents in store with the Magpies. He will start alongside Ciaran Clark.
The full-backs will be Paul Dummett and DeAndre Yedlin.
We expect to see a different midfield from the Cardiff game with many players getting sufficient rest after that tie. Jonjo Shelvey is expected to return to the midfield replacing goal scorer Isaac Hayden alongside Jack Colback.
The wings will be taken by Yoan Gouffran and Matt Ritchie. Both players did not play in the last game and should start this time around.
Mohamed Diame is expected to start in the number 10 role again, with Aleksandar Mitrovic spearheading the attack.
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