Newcastle United supporters have been pretty downbeat throughout the international break after seeing their side fail to win any of their opening eight Premier League games of the season.
Rafa Benitez’s men went into their encounter with Manchester United back on October 6 having picked up only two points from a possible 21 in the league, thus already languishing in the bottom three. Yet at 2-0 up at Old Trafford after just ten minutes, things were looking up for the Magpies, only for three United goals in the final 20 minutes to seal a 3-2 success for the Red Devils, thus inflicting a sixth Premier League loss on the North East heavyweights.
Thus, there have been many disappointed Newcastle fans up and down the country in recent times, several of whom are likely to be interested in recent comments from Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson, who has labelled their clash with Brighton this weekend as ‘like a cup final’.
And while there is no doubting that Saturday’s meeting between two of last season’s promoted sides is a big game for Benitez’s side, to say it’s ‘like a cup final’ at this early stage of the campaign seems very much wide of the mark.
Yes, Merson is right to underline the importance of the Magpies’ encounter with Chris Hughton’s Seagulls, what with Newcastle without a win so far this season, and having yet to even pick up a point from their four matches at St James’ Park.
And defeat to Brighton this weekend would see them fall nine points behind the South Coast outfit which, even at this stage of the season, is a hefty gap to a club that are, like Newcastle, probably going to be in the relegation battle come the end of the season.
All of the above suggest that Merson is vindicated to label Saturday’s clash as ‘like a cup final’, but it will be just their ninth Premier League game of the season, and while failing to win would be far from ideal, it wouldn’t be critical either.
Ultimately, Saturday represents the first of many genuine opportunities for the North East giants to start moving up the Premier League table, as their rough fixture list to begin the campaign starts to somewhat smoothen over the coming weeks.
In fact, they don’t have to face a side that finished in the top six of the division last season until their trip to Liverpool on Boxing Day – between now and then are ten games that will shape Newcastle’s season, not just one against Brighton at St James’ Park this weekend.
Yes, the Seagulls’ away record leaves a lot to be desired, but so does Newcastle’s recent home record, so while Merson is right in some ways to emphasise the importance of Saturday’s meeting between the two sides, to label the ninth game of the season ‘like a cup final’ seems wide of the mark.
Newcastle fans… what do you think? Let us know!
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