Why Newcastle United could be the main beneficiaries of the unwanted international break
After a difficult start to the year, particularly in the league, Newcastle have got their European hopes back on track with back-to-back 2-1 victories. Those wins over Wolves and Nottingham Forest may only represent six points on the table, but come the end of the season, they could prove to be huge turning points in their fortunes.
After two wins in a row, it may seem illogical to say that a two-week break has come at the right time for Newcastle, but a peek behind the scenes shows this is exactly what the squad needs. Manchester United are next up for Newcastle in another huge league game - but it’s one that the Magpies will be grateful to have had plenty of preparation time for.
As Paul Tierney blew the final whistle at the City Ground, he caused scenes of utter jubilation as the travelling fans celebrated their side’s victory. They were made to work for it, despite their dominance, but a stellar display from Alexander Isak put Newcastle within striking distance of Tottenham Hotspur in 4th place.
It was a significant result for Newcastle - but one that came at a price. Allan Saint-Maximin was taken off at half-time with injury and it was revealed post-match that Miguel Almiron’s injury is worse than initially reported with the Paraguayan set to miss up to six weeks of action.
Add to that Nick Pope’s subsequent withdrawal from the England squad and Fabian Schar not being called up by Switzerland after nursing an injury, their numbers are beginning to crumble.Both Pope and Schar played through injury on Friday night and displayed little effect of their pain, but that’s not something that can be sustained over the course of a few games. Now though, the duo have a fortnight to recover.
Similar can be said of Bruno Guimaraes who has been impacted by an ankle injury in recent times. Such is his huge impact on the team, the Brazilian hasn’t been able to sit out games to ensure he is fully-fit - now though, he has been afforded that opportunity.
The squad, who travelled to Dubai for a training camp, can now all recover physically ahead of the game with Erik ten Hag’s side, but possibly more importantly than that, they are given the chance to mentally recover from a demanding few months. In a battle for a Champions League place, the team have had to be at full force ever since the return from the World Cup.
Add into that the mental toll of their Carabao Cup journey and subsequent defeat in their first appearance in a major final this century - it’s clear the team would benefit from a weekend off. And when they come back, they have 12 games to decide their Premier League fate.
For 26 games, barring a slight blip, Howe’s side have been sensational and although qualifying for any European competition would have been seen as a success ahead of the campaign - missing out on Champions League football after having that particular carrot dangled in front of them the whole season would be a heartbreaking end to the campaign.