The business end of the season in the second tier of English football is spicing up in a scintillating manner. This Saturday, two heavyweights in the form of Newcastle United and Leeds United collide at St. James’ Park. While Rafael Benitez’s men would be aiming to maintain their stronghold in the automatic promotion spots, Garry Monk’s outfit would aspire to make a huge statement in their quest of getting into the Premier League via the play-offs.
The black and white crop succumbed to a 2-1 loss at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday in their last game whereas the Peacocks are on the back of a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Preston North End. Here are three key encounters which could decide the outcome of the game this weekend.
Chris Wood vs. Jamaal Lascelles
It’s going to be a battle between an unstoppable force and an immovable object when Wood and Lascelles square off. Wood has banged in 24 goals and also has 3 assists in 39 appearances for the Whites in the Championship, while Lascelles has been one of the finest central defenders in the second division. The Magpies’ skipper has won a lot of appreciation owing to his resolute and resilient attitude this season, whereas Wood’s fine goal scoring nick has been unparalleled.
Matt Ritchie vs. Gaetano Berardi
Ritchie has been absolutely emphatic in his debut season with the Geordies, having racked up 11 goals and 7 assists this term in 39 appearances. From the right wing, he would aim to rattle Berardi, who is likely to be stationed in the left-back slot of Leeds United. While Ritchie would aim to cut inside and test Karl Darlow, Berardi needs to predict the movements of the 27-year-old Scot and stay alarmed all the time. The full-back has had a consistent season so far and Ritchie would surely be aiming to put a dent on his stature.
Ayoze Perez vs. Pontus Jansson
Another intriguing clash that would be worth noting would be between Monk’s central defender in the shape of Jansson and Toons’ creator Perez who is likely to be slotted behind the striker. The Spaniard would itch to get into the defensive line of the visiting outfit and Jansson would have to mark him throughout the game to suffocate him. The Swedish international has been one of the success stories for Leeds United this season and has to really command his side’s backline in a very shrewd manner to ensure that no harm is done.
Statistics Credits: WhoScored