Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
Newcastle come into their seventh game of the Premier League season still looking for their first win. During this spell, they have been knocked out of the Carabao Cup, and they enter the weekend in the bottom three of the table. It’s been clear for a few years that Magpies owner Mike Ashley will tolerate, even embrace, mediocrity. For how long, though, will he be happy to witness the unenthusiastic mess the club is turning into?
This weekend, Leicester City are the guests at St James’ Park. Their 3-1 win over Huddersfield last weekend showed that they’re still a side who can put away the Premier League’s lesser sides, but the absence through injury of thrilling winger Demarai Gray will complicate their task here. Without Gray’s pace and dribbling ability, can Claude Puel find the key to break down what will be a defensive Newcastle set-up?
Newcastle United vs Leicester City Prediction: Newcastle United 1-2 Leicester City
Leicester have chopped and changed their back four so often this season that it’s debatable whether Puel himself knows what his best defence is. This has led to the leaking of goals even against as feckless an opponent as Huddersfield – so it’s far from out of the question that Newcastle could score, should they emerge from their defensive shelter. However, with the quality the visitors possess in attack, they should score more than they concede.
Newcastle, for their part, need to find a way to attack without losing the ability to defend. Both of their points this season have come from 0-0 draws; when they score, they lose – that can’t be a sustainable way to go through a season.
Our recommended tip: Over 2.5 Goals
As anaemic as Newcastle’s attack may be – their main transfer move in the summer was to swap the goal-shy Dwight Gayle for the goal-terrified Salomon Rondon – they have to see this as a game they could win. This means they need to push forward more; to do otherwise would be to accept relegation. They may well find a way past Leicester’s muddled defence – but can they do that and avoid leaving gaps for Jamie Vardy and co.? Leicester have the players to score at least once here – and when these sides meet, there is usually a few goals.
The most recent meeting between these sides was a 2-1 win for Newcastle towards the end of last season at Leicester’s King Power Stadium. The visiting side led 2-0 after 75 minutes through Jonjo Shelvey and Ayoze Perez, before a late and meaningless Vardy consolation.
Leicester won the previous five meetings between the sides, including a 3-2 thriller last December which was decided by a Perez own-goal. That, along with a 3-0 win in the 2015/16 season, means that the East Midlands side have won on their last two visits to Tyneside.
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Players to watch: Jonjo Shelvey & Wilfred Ndidi
Shelvey was the subject, pre-World Cup, of a push for his inclusion in the England squad. No call-up materialised, but it’s easy to see why the groundswell developed. He is a highly adept passer over long and short ranges, works extremely hard, and seems to have capped a volcanic temper that threatened to curtail his top-level career. International hopes may be stymied by the fact that Newcastle tend to keep ten men behind the ball except in emergencies, which limits Shelvey’s impact.
Wilfried Ndidi came to Leicester in the winter of 2017, a defensive midfielder joining a side that was still trying to get over the loss of Ngolo Kante. The stubborn insistence on using him in the perpetual-motion Kante role – which persisted until the arrival of Puel – seriously blunted Ndidi’s effectiveness. Licensed to play a more conventional role in the last twelve months, the Nigerian has thrived and become an indispensable part of the Foxes’ squad – reflected by the new six-year contract he signed in August.