Newcastle travel to Brentford on Saturday after a rough spell in which they’ve lost ground to Brighton at the top of the table and had their lead over the chasing pack cut to six points. But Brentford won’t be a pushover, even if deadly striker Scott Hogan leaves for West Ham before the weekend. Can Newcastle get back to winning ways?
Brentford have become figures of fun for the press in recent seasons, after the surprise sacking of manager Mark Warburton and the departure of his successor Marinus Dijkhuizen just nine games into the following season.
This came after Matthew Benham predicted the Bees would be in the Champions League in a few years.
But a quick look at the club’s historical record shows that Bees fans haven’t had it this good since the 1950s, during their last stint in English football’s second tier. So for all the derision that comes Benham’s way, it’s hard to deny he’s doing a fine job at the moment.
In case you’re not aware, the method behind the madness is all plotted out with statistical analysis. So by Benham’s model, Mark Warburton was underachieving or getting lucky, despite leading Brentford into a playoff spot in 2014-15.
They haven’t come as close to going up since Warburton was on board, and are now firmly in mid-table. But it’s fair to say that Brenford are still overachieving considering their size and history.
And as you run down the teamsheet you can’t help but be struck by how young the squad is. Hardly any of the first team regulars are older than their mid-20s.
Most of these players have been drafted in from Premier League clubs. Nico Yennaris and the once lauded Josh McEachran have taken the step down after getting game time with Arsenal and Chelsea in their teens.
Not out of the Woods
One of the stars is the cultured midfielder Ryan Woods. He’s got the touch and decision-making to control a game, but isn’t averse to the tougher side of things either and covers a lot of ground.
With Woods next to Yennaris Brentford have a decent technical platform, but don’t have a great deal of physical presence in the middle. Add the slim Josh McEachran in there and the Bees could struggle up against the muscular and dynamic Shelvey and Haden in the middle for the Magpies.
By far the team’s biggest source of goals is striker Scott Hogan with 14 in 22, and it’s no shock that he’s been chased by West Ham lately. Hogan has shaken off a couple of devastating knee injuries to become one of the stars of the division.
There are even doubts that he’ll still be at the club by the time this fixture comes around. But seeing as we’re only halfway through the window, Newcastle will be wise to make plans to for the 24-year-old, who only needs a sniff of goal to do damage.
Predicted Brentford Lineup:
Bentley; Dean, Egan, Bjelland; Colin, Yennaris, Woods, Field; Sawyers; Vibe, Hogan
In the summer Newcastle did some smart business by bringing in a lot of Premier League players with Championship experience. Dwight Gayle was a classic example, as he had stagnated at Palace but fired them into the Premier League back in 12-13.
And he’s regained the form of four years ago, averaging almost a goal a game. He had also consigned the Serbian international Aleksandar Mitrović to the bench even before the big striker’s painful-looking injury last weekend.
Rehab for Benítez
It’s been 20 years since the Champions LEague winner has managed at such a low level. But if Newcastle’s progress is anything to go by he’s enjoying this season out of the limelight after a couple of undistinguished spells at Napoli and Real Madrid.
While Newcastle aren’t the most stylish team in the division, they make their physical advantage and Premier League nous count: They’re efficient in front of goal, and until a post-Christmas blip had hardly put a foot wrong since the start of the season.
Black Mark for Colback
The one true disappointment has been Jack Colback, who looked set for big things after being called up for England back in 2014. The central midfielder and local lad has found himself way down the pecking order at St James’ Park this season.
He’s been usurped by the youngster Isaac Hayden, who was signed from Arsenal in the summer and has a maturity on the ball that belies his age, despite a small wobble in the last few match-weeks.
But one man who looks far more comfortable in the Championship is Jonjo Shelvey. The stats are stark, as the Magpies have lost two of the five games he’s missed this season, all for a suspension following a racist outburst.
He’ll be back for the Brentford match and should give the whole team a lift with his incisive passing and flair on the ball. After struggling in Shelvey’s absence Matt Ritchie on the right will definitely benefit from the space that the midfielder can open up.
Predicted Newcastle Teamsheet:
Darlow; Anita, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Hayden, Shelvey; Ritchie, Diamé, Gouffran; Gayle
When Will Brentford vs Newcastle Take Place?
15:00 GMT on Saturday 14 January at Griffin Park.Find out how you can watch the match for nothing with Bet365.
Brentford vs Newcastle Match Prediction
Newcastle haven’t been that great at St James’ Park this season, but they’ve been formidable on the road. Even more so before their recent rough patch. But with Shelvey back in the side there’s no reason to doubt they’ll be back to their old selves.
Brentford’s trouble is inconsistency, as on their day they could easily get a win against Newcastle, having thrashed Reading and beaten league leaders Brighton away this season. But this weekend we wouldn’t bet on anything but an away win. We’re tipping a 1-2 victory for The Toon.