Following Saturday’s devastating 3-2 defeat to Swansea City, Newcastle United travel to Leicester this weekend on the back of a record seventh successive Premier League defeat, and the prospect of relegation has become a serious threat.
In stark contrast, The Foxes are in red-hot form, winning their last four games to drag themselves out of the bottom three.
With this in mind it’s easy to assume the result will be a formality. But when variables are brought into the equation, the idea of Newcastle gaining an important point, or three, this Saturday is not simply wishful thinking.
The teams are currently 1-1 for the season, with Leicester taking the spoils in the FA Cup in January and Newcastle claiming all three points in the league last October. Prior to this, however, Newcastle have not lost at Leicester in five visits, stretching back to 8th May 1999.
Before the weekend can commence, the Foxes welcome league leaders Chelsea to the King Power Stadium on Wednesday. Should Leicester lose against Jose Mourinho’s men, they could find themselves four points adrift of nearest rivals Hull City and the pressure increases on them for this weekend’s game.
David Nugent, Jamie Vardy, and Jeffrey Schlupp are struggling to be fit for the home side, and a reshuffle may be required for boss Nigel Pearson when deciding Saturday’s starting XI.
With the fixture kicking off at 12:45, there is also little recovery time for the players who do play, whereas Newcastle’s squad will have a full week’s rest behind them.
Most importantly, that means another week closer to full fitness for Dutch striker Siem De Jong.
An international with Champions League experience, De Jong has become a symbol of hope for the Magpies following his goal scoring return against Swansea. The 26-year-old has suffered an injury-ravaged debut season but can make himself a hero should he put his European pedigree to good use with four decisive games to go.
Whilst not as high profile as De Jong, the return of Dummett is equally as important.
Vurnon Anita, usually a holding midfielder, has struggled since deputising at left-back and was exploited against both Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea in his past two games. With Dummett back in the fold, the left flank should be better guarded, allowing the likes of Jonas Gutierrez and Remy Cabella to roam forward with more confidence.
French midfielder Sissoko has the ability to be a game-changer but recent performances, including a red card against Liverpool in his last outing, have left many wondering whether the 25-year-old is up for the fight.
Sissoko has the chance this Saturday to silence his critics with an influential performance and with De Jong on the field with him; he may have the perfect candidate to feed off his surging runs. With a poor performance from Ryan Taylor last weekend, Sissoko is a certainty to start in the heart of the team.
More positives come in the form of striker Emmanuel Rivière, who had by far his most impressive performance in a black and white shirt against Swansea, his pace and pass acting as the key to Newcastle’s opener.
For Leicester, this game is a must-win and they will look to take the game to a fragile Newcastle team from the off. Should a goal not come early, however, it will suit the Magpies and allow their loyal band of followers to make the most noise in the stadium.
Many pundits have already written off Newcastle’s chances of a result this weekend.
If modern history has taught us anything, it’s that Newcastle United surprise us most when we don’t expect anything from them.