Newcastle find themselves in the Premier League bottom three going into the international break, with just a solitary point to their name.
That 0-0 draw against newly-promoted Cardiff is all Rafa Benitez has to show for the first four matches of the season.
However, the opening weeks of the season have seen the Magpies host Tottenham and Chelsea, before travelling to Manchester City last Saturday.
Losing by just one goal against those three big hitters should offer some optimism despite the difficult start. But what can Newcastle expect from their next five games? We’ve taken a look…
Arsenal – Home
Newcastle host yet another member of the top six straight after the international break. Benitez has preferred a deep defensive block in recent games against the big boys, but a different approach might work here.
Arsenal were dreadful on the road last season and have looked vulnerable to pressing football under Unai Emery, especially when passing out from the back.
Whether Benitez is willing to change tack remains unclear. The safe bet would be another one-goal defeat. 2-1 to Arsenal.
Crystal Palace – Away
Palace have suffered three straight defeats since their opening day win against Fulham and Wilfried Zaha’s injury is a major blow.
However, there is every chance the flying winger will be back by the time Newcastle travel to Selhurst Park. Benitez’s deep defensive style should stifle Palace’s pacy frontline and Christian Benteke is woefully out of form.
After such a rough run of fixtures, Benitez may view this as an opportunity to get all three points, but a draw looks more likely. 1-1.
Leicester City – Home
Leicester have enjoyed a mixed start to the season; two wins and two defeats. Both sides prefer to counter attack, and both won each other’s own patch last season.
This one does represent an opportunity to get on the front foot at home, but the threat of Jamie Vardy and Demarai Gray on the break is always a danger.
There could be goals in this one, so maybe another draw. 2-2.
Manchester United – Away
There is no love lost between Benitez and under-fire Reds manager Jose Mourinho. So, if the Portuguese is still feeling the heat by 6th October, Rafa will relish the chance to put the boot in.
Benitez’s low block nearly worked against Spurs, Chelsea and City, who are all much more fluid attacking units than United. The spoiler tactics should be perfect to stifle Mourinho’s stuttering outfit at Old Trafford.
Newcastle are more than capable of keeping United out. Bearing in mind the Magpies have found the net in all three of their matches against the top six so far, a shock victory shouldn’t be counted out. However, 0-0 looks most likely.
Brighton – Home
Going into this one with four points (if the previous predictions all come true) and no wins after eight games would possibly create unrest ahead of the visit of Brighton, especially as it comes after the next international break.
However, it also represents a great opportunity to get a first three points. Brighton are improving but Newcastle should be able to cause them problems, especially when spurred on in pursuit of a maiden win of the season. 2-0 Newcastle.