Weblog: The football punter
Improving Wolves can devour Magpies
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Newcastle’s November revival saw Rafael Benitez nominated for Manager of the Month but the Magpies could suffer successive home defeats when Wolves travel to St James’ Park.
The hosts defeated Watford, Bournemouth and Burnley last month by a single-goal margin each time to ease the pressure on their experienced boss.
A humbling 3-0 defeat at home to West Ham followed before a draw at Everton in midweek and Nuno Espirito Santo’s men have the defensive resolve to take maximum points.
Wolves inflicted a second defeat of the campaign on Chelsea in midweek, winning 2-1 with just 29 per cent possession and two shots on target.
They are likely to see more of the ball and create more goalscoring opportunities on Tyneside, where Newcastle have won just twice this season.
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No team outside the top seven has conceded fewer goals than Wolves’ tally of 18 this campaign and Newcastle’s paltry 12 goals scored is unlikely to leave the West Midlands outfit quaking in their boots.
Salomon Rondon, who has three league goals this season, is steadily improving and is Newcastle’s focal attacking threat but if Conor Coady and company are alert in the air, there is little for the visitors to be concerned about.
Benitez’s team had 45 shots across those three November victories but only 11 of them were on target and such wastefulness in front of goal could cost them in this clash.
Wolves, meanwhile, have fared well in the final third this term, netting in four of their last five fixtures, and their versatile front three could cause problems for Newcastle’s depleted rear guard.
Paul Dummett is a doubt for United, while Florian Lejeune is sidelined and Fabian Schar suspended, leaving them light of options in defence.
Benitez switched to five at the back in the 1-1 draw at Everton on Wednesday but it was clear in the loss to West Ham that defensive issues persist.
Full-backs Javier Manquillo and DeAndre Yedlin have regularly been guilty of neglecting their defensive duties in favour of attacking this term and that is something that could be punished by a Wolves attack oozing pace.
Raul Jimenez took time to adjust to Premier League life but has four goals and four assists to his name this term and Santo has a catalogue of probing wingers in Jota, Adama Traore, Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro to choose from.
Wolves have enjoyed wins over Crystal Palace and West Ham on the road this term as well as holding Man United and Arsenal to draws.
They will be buoyed by the return of maestro Ruben Neves who, alongside the experienced Joao Moutinho, can help settle his side in a hostile atmosphere.
This is the Premier League’s most played fixture yet to produce a clean sheet, with both teams having scored in their six meetings, but an ever-improving Wolves contingent look a value bet to outscore the Magpies.