Newcastle face a tricky, but winnable, trip to the London Stadium on Saturday, to face West Ham, with a win for Steve Bruce’s side taking them within a point of their opponents.
The Hammers have not won in their last four Premier League games, which has seen them draw two and lose two. Newcastle’s up and down season continued last weekend with a disappointing draw with Wolves.
It does not have the feel of a classic encounter, but it is definitely an intriguing one, and while Newcastle have picked up wins against Tottenham and Manchester United, games like Saturday’s are a true gauge of how the Magpies measure up.
With a home game against Bournemouth and a trip to Aston Villa either side of another international break after Saturday’s game, Bruce will be hoping for a few points before they face Manchester City at the end of November.
Early team news
Fabian Schar and Matt Ritchie could both return from injury this weekend. After a minor issue, Schar is likely to slot straight back in, if passed fit.
Ritchie could be set for a longer wait to get back into the side, due to the form of Jetro Willems in his absence, but a place on the bench could be handed to him at West Ham.
Isaac Hayden makes a timely return from suspension, as Sean Longstaff begins his three game ban for the red card received against Wolves.
Andy Carroll is set to be deprived of a reunion with his former club, as his groin problem is not eexpected to clear up in time for this weekend’s game.
West Ham have goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and winger Michail Antonio both ruled out with thigh injuries.
The seemingly forever-injured Jack Wilshere is doubtful for Saturday’s game with a groin strain. The former Arsenal midfielder is rated as 50-50 to be available.
Referee: Stuart Attwell
The Warwickshire official takes charge of his sixth game of the season, and his second in the middle for games involving each of West Ham and Newcastle.
Attwell will be hoping for a quieter day than his last game, when VAR awarded two penalties, overturning both of his on-field decisions.
He last refereed Newcastle for the woeful display at Norwich, which saw us whimper to a 3-1 defeat, booking three of our players that day.
Overall, Attwell has brandished 17 yellow cards in his five games, and sent one player off – for a second bookable offence. The only two penalty awards he has made this season were the pair that he was deemed to have got wrong at Carrow Road last weekend.
Points to prove
Newcastle’s attacking players have picked up a fair amount of criticism recently, with them only scoring a single goal this season between them. Joelinton, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin will all be hoping to show that they can find the net.
In fairness, despite not scoring, Almiron did have one of his best games for Newcastle last weekend, and if Joelinton can be provided with some support, he could find a goal this weekend.
Hayden will also be wanting to put on a performance, with his replacement, Matty Longstaff, making headlines for his displays. The returning midfielder will be wanting to show he deserves his starting place back when all midfielders are available again.
West Ham will be wanting to put their winless run behind them, and with Newcastle’s lack of goals, they will surely see Saturday as the perfect opportunity to pick up three points.
Despite the current 5-4-1 lineup not providing the ammunition for Joelinton to start scoring, it would be a big surprise if Bruce strayed from it this weekend.
While he may consider a more adventurous, attacking formation for the following home game with Bournemouth, he is almost certain to rely on his defensive tactics in the Capital, hoping to sneak a goal on the counter-attack.
So Newcastle fans will likely have to endure another afternoon watching their side have a minimal amount of possession.
Manuel Pellegrini likes to play with a 4-1-4-1 system, whether playing at home or away, with Sebastian Haller playing as a lone striker, being supported by his midfield four whenever they have possession.
That is unlikely to change for the visit of Newcastle on Saturday.