How Newcastle United's next THREE Premier League games could prove crucial – and where they'll be won and lost
Newcastle boss Steve Bruce insists he should be judged on United’s upcoming games - and not on a start to the season which has seen them play five top six sides.
But what chance is there of the Magpies making good on Bruce’s insistence that they will pull themselves out of the Premier League relegation zone after their next three matches?
Recent history, with Newcastle having been beaten at home last season by Saturday’s visitors Wolves and at West Ham (their next away game) suggests not.
But how might the Magpies fare tactically against those two teams and Bournemouth - all of them in mid-table?
We look at where Newcastle’s three games might be won or lost in what could be a make or break spell for Bruce.
Newcastle vs Wolverhampton Wanderers
Newcastle will have to find a way to handle Adama Traore. The pacy winger has been key star for Wolves this season, finally finding real consistency and leading the majority of their attacks.
With Wolves preferring to counter-attack down their right-hand side, Jetro Willems or Paul Dummett will be sorely tested.
At the other end, Newcastle will have to find a way past Willy Boly. The imposing centre-half has been the rock on which Wolves’ record of conceding just four Premier League goals away from home this season has been built.
West Ham vs Newcastle
Having shown they can defend in recent weeks, Newcastle will have to do so again when met with the tall and mobile Sebastian Haller.
With four goals this season, but only one in his last five games, Haller has both proven quality and hunger to go with his pace and imposing 6ft 3in frame.
But West Ham have shown themselves vulnerable this season, particularly against players pacy enough to get in behind them on to through balls.
So perhaps Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron can take advantage of that on the counter attack.
Although Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna are a powerful centre-back pairing, the rapid and direct running of Saint-Maximin with the ball at his feet also has the potential to create real problems.
Newcastle vs Bournemouth
United must look to avoid giving away cheap free kicks and corners against the Cherries, who have scored over half of all their goals this season from dead ball situations.
Callum Wilson has been the main beneficiary of that set-play prowess, scoring five goals and earning more international recognition in 2019-20 so far.
And to keep him quiet, Newcastle must nullify his supply lines from the right flank in particular, with four of his goals set up from that area, where Josh King and Diego Rico have produced two assists apiece.
But Newcastle can expect to have plenty of the ball against Eddie Howe’s men, who average only 44% possession this season so far.