Make Or Break Time For Newcastle United

April 2, 2013 in Europe, Premier League

With the season about ready to come to a close, Newcastle United have a bigger month than most as they try to avoid the relegation dogfight that could ensue, as well as trying to progress further into the Europa League competition, even though they are up against very tough opposition.

First up, April 4th. Portugal. Newcastle travel to the Portuguese version of the Stadium of Light, the Estadio Da Luz. Could this be an omen? That the place Newcastle have to travel to has the same stadium name as their biggest rivals? Who knows, but what everybody knows about this match is that it is going to be tough. When the draw was announced, Newcastle United fans all over Twitter were hopeful, excited even, but then when they did some research on the team they had to face, and found out facts like they haven’t lost in the league all season, and that only Spartak Moscow and Barcelona have bested them in Europe…well, that struck a little fear into the ever faithful hearts of the Geordies. Sure, Newcastle have been doing well in Europe so far, and haven’t conceded in the knockout stages, but they have only scored two themselves, and in my opinion, against lesser opposition than the team top of the Portuguese league. Sure, Anji have got Eto’o, Boussoufa, Willian and the like, but Benfica are consistent Champions League performers, ones who I would put among the favourites of this competition.

Benfica

Sandwiched between the home and away legs of Benfica is a home game against Fulham, who have been a bit up and down, as we saw yesterday against QPR. This is a winnable game by usual standards, as they beat Newcastle very often at Craven Cottage, and Newcastle return the favour at St. James’ Park, but I believe Alan Pardew has his sights firmly set on European glory at the moment; if Newcastle avoid a clear thrashing at Benfica, I believe they will field a weaker side against Fulham in order to try and win the home leg they have coming up in midweek, which could leave Newcastle short of team members in this match, and likely end up fielding players like Gabriel Obertan, who at very best, has not endeared himself to the Toon Army with a series of lacklustre performances.

And after the home leg of the Europa league tie, Newcastle will face off against Paolo Di Canio’s new Sunderland side, who are one of the few teams performing worse in the league than the Geordies. This is likely going to be one of the most fiery derbies you will see in a while, as, with both teams still very capable of going down, both need to win, especially with Christian Benteke leading Villa to some points, and Wigan going into usual god mode. As previously stated, both of these teams could still go down, with Sunderland only one point above the drop zone, and Newcastle three points above, but then again, if Newcastle win a game, they could sky-rocket up the table, making it look a lot harder to be dragged down. As it stands, a group of eight or nine teams in my opinion are all still in a position to go down, with Sunderland, Aston Villa and Wigan being the favourites.

After Sunderland come tricky games against West Brom and Liverpool. While West Brom are up and down a lot this season, they are still a very tough team to face at such a vulnerable time. And the same goes for Liverpool. Not quite one of the big four any more, they still have a very good team, and with a striker such as Luis Suarez in your arsenal, you can never count them out. Unless he’s suspended for doing something stupid, in which case maybe you can. But that game could be moved if Newcastle do the unthinkable and knock out Benfica, and progress to the semi finals of the Europa League, something that hasn’t been replicated since 2004, when Didier Drogba knocked them out whilst playing for Marseille, before securing his mega money move to Chelsea.

At this point in time, it is very hard to pinpoint how Newcastle’s season will end. It could either fly through the roof, or drop through the floor. Literally, it could drop through the floor of the Premier League. Time will tell.

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