Weblog: The football punter

Benitez's boys can sink the confident Clarets

TV: BT Sport 1, 8pm Tuesday

Burnley have established some precious breathing space in the battle for Premier League survival but may suffer a first league defeat of 2019 against resurgent Newcastle at St James' Park.

Confidence is soaring in the Clarets' camp after Saturday's 2-1 victory at home to Tottenham which extended their unbeaten run to eight league games - their longest in the Premier League era.

But despite setting a new club record there are still doubts over which division they will be playing in next season.

Six points separate Burnley from the drop zone and they wouldn't want the gap to narrow any further before the final four games of the season which include a trip to Chelsea and home matches against Manchester City and Arsenal.

Newcastle are in a slightly weaker position – four points above the bottom three – but recent performances and results have given them plenty of encouragement.

Rafa Benitez's side have taken ten points from the last five games, including a remarkable 2-1 victory over Manchester City.

Their only loss in that period was a narrow 1-0 reverse at Tottenham and they were totally dominant at home Huddersfield on Saturday, winning the match 2-0 and the shot count 29-3 against opponents reduced to ten men by the early dismissal of defender Tommy Smith.

Newcastle's success over the Terriers was their third successive triumph on Tyneside although their home record (won five, drawn one and lost eight) still makes unconvincing reading.

However, there is plenty of scope to pile up more points on home soil with four of the league's bottom half teams awaiting their visit to Tyneside.

The upturn in results has been influenced by several senior players returning from injury and by the hugely impressive contributions of midfielder Sean Longstaff, who made his first league start for the club in January and quickly established himself as integral.

Longstaff ticks a lot of boxes for the modern day midfielder.

He is energetic, good in possession and strong in the tackle and has quickly won the hearts of Newcastle fans, who love to see a home grown talent excelling in the black and white stripes.

His contributions have helped to lift the mood around the stadium, as has the £21m club-record purchase of Miguel Almiron from Atlanta United.

Having a better atmosphere in the stadium takes the pressure off the players and makes life much more difficult for visiting teams.

Burnley have got back to their stubborn best and are not going to go down without giving everything.

But a second game in four days could be a tough task for Sean Dyche's men, who had to work very hard for their success over Spurs.

Newcastle have had the same schedule but benefit from a healthier squad and should have plenty left in the tank after beating Huddersfield with such ease.

The Magpies are probably feeling as confident as they have all season and look a tasty odds-against wager to add another three points.


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Match in Focus


Lazio v Bologna

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Lazio have won four of their last five matches in all competitions
Expert verdict
Lazio won the Coppa Italia last Wednesday after two late goals helped them see off Atalanta in the final and they can win their final league match at home comfortably. Bologna have virtually pulled clear of danger with three wins in their previous four games but they all came at home and their record on the road leaves a lot to be desired. They have won only two of their 18 away league fixtures and lost the reverse 2-1 in October.