AFC Bournemouth vs Newcastle United
Venue: Vitality Stadium
Referee: Mike Dean
AFC Bournemouth play host to an in-form Newcastle United side on Saturday afternoon, with just three points separating the pair in the Premier League table.
Victory for the hosts could see them rise from 12th to 9th place in the table and secure the 40-point total most mid-table sides strive for. Though relegation hasn’t been a threat all season, it would bring manager Eddie Howe comfort to know the Cherries were safe with seven games to spare. As well as this, Bournemouth could be in for a record-breaking season, they are just seven points off their highest Premier League total of 44 points, gaining a win over Newcastle would be an excellent way to encroach that target.
Mid-table obscurity can be a dangerous way of ending a season; a lack of an objective can suck a side that has appeared safe for months into relegation struggles. While Bournemouth appear comfortable at this stage, Howe will be keen to be statistically safe as soon as possible, so picking up at least a point will doubtlessly be the objective.
Failure to secure a point wouldn’t be catastrophic, and Howe will remind his squad they can still break personal records. However, it would constitute a disappointment if the Cherries didn’t beat their record points total from their current position.
Meanwhile, visitors Newcastle could leapfrog Bournemouth if they left the Vitality Stadium with all three points. The Magpie’s recent upturn in form has primarily been based on their exploits at St James’ Park, but they will still travel south in high spirits.
Just as he did last season, Rafael Benitez is getting the maximum from his squad when it matters most, and he will be keen to see Newcastle extend their gap from the lower reaches of the table. Due to Cardiff City’s absence of a fixture, Saturday presents an opportunity for Newcastle to distance themselves from the drop by up to nine points.
However, lose against Bournemouth and the Magpies wouldn’t drop any places initially because of FA Cup action, but Crystal Palace and Brighton would each be only a point behind with a game in hand.
Even though David Brooks hasn’t completed the first season of his initial four-year contract, this month he signed a long-term extension with the Cherries after having a breakthrough campaign. His arrival from Sheffield United was muted and even he admits “When I arrived at the club, not many people would have anticipated the start I have made – myself included.” Just eight months into life at Bournemouth, Brooks will be a critical threat Benitez will target and attempt to neutralise, which is a tremendous compliment to 21-year-old.
In Bournemouth’s previous fixture against Huddersfield Town, Callum Wilson impressed once again by scoring 20 minutes into his return from injury. Gareth Southgate recalled the single cap England international to the Three Lions squad for the squads initial Euro 2020 qualifiers during the week and Wilson will relish the opportunity to add to his international cap, which he thoroughly deserves for his persistent determination to succeed at Bournemouth.
Last Saturday’s victory over Everton for Newcastle may have come in fortuitous circumstances, but Rafael Benitez is giving Mike Ashley a front row seat on how wisely he can invest the owner’s money. Club record signing Miguel Almiron is currently the man holding Benitez and Ashley’s relationship together; the Spaniard was given a single opportunity to significantly invest during his three-season spell, and Almiron was a left-field choice. So far though the Paraguayan has settled excellently and galvanised a fractured fanbase.
Benitez has sent a clear message to Ashley with this transfer, he has an astute scouting network, and Ashley’s money won’t be wasted. Sadly though if the owner fails to deliver the promise of any summer incomings, Benitez could walk away from signing another contract.
Predicted Starting XIs
AFC Bournemouth (4-4-2): Boruc; Clyne, Mepham, Ake, Daniels; Brooks, Lerma, Surman, Fraser; King, Wilson
Newcastle United (5-2-2-1): Dubravka; Yedlin, Fernandez, Lascelles, Lejeune, Ritchie; Hayden, Ki; Perez, Almiron; Rondon
Score Prediction: AFC Bournemouth 1 Newcastle United 2
The Magpies have been playing well these past few weeks and will be confident knowing they only need one or two more wins to guarantee safety. Therefore, I fancy them to pick up a crucial away victory and leapfrog their hosts on Saturday.