Newcastle came under fierce criticism on Wednesday night after the way the setup against runaway league leaders Manchester City, playing at home Rafa Benitez almost conceded defeat right from the off as he deemed it better to lose by a small margin and not put a sizeable dent in their already stark looking goal difference tally.
He will argue that it was a game that he was never going to win so it made more sense to look for damage limitation, that may be something you could point to when away from home but when you setup like that in front of your own fans you know there is something wrong with the state of the Premier League.
The fear factor is gripping teams to the point where they simply are scared of losing, so much so that they do not even want to play against the so called ‘Big Six’ if that is the case then at least Rafa Benitez can identify this fixture as one where his club can potentially get some points on the board as this afternoon they play host to Brighton.
The Magpies currently find themselves 15th in the table on the same points as Crystal Palace and West Ham below them, now if you were to apply the doomsday scenario and they were heavily beaten by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City then they could have slipped down to 17th in the table with their morale in tatters.
At the same time though had they had a go at Manchester City on Wednesday then they could have very well earned a point for their troubles, something that only one other club has managed to do this season (Everton) and who knows it might that point which is one that keeps them up at the end of the season.
Newcastle fans will hope that the shackles are removed this afternoon for the visit of former boss Chris Hughton who brings his Seagulls side to St James’ Park while looking to do the double over their Tyneside counterparts after already beating them 1-0 at The AMEX earlier this season with Tomer Hemed getting the game’s only goal.
You must remember that both these teams on show today were promoted last season and if Newcastle are doing it wrong then Brighton are doing it right as they continue to keep their heads above water and out of the relegation battle quicksand which is currently below them, the South Coast outfit come into this game currently lying 12th in the Premier League table.
Last time out they were beaten by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge by two goals to nil with the additional quality of the Champions finally showing through in the end, it may have been a relatively comfortable win for Antonio Conte’s men in the end but Brighton by no means came to West London just to park the bus.
Ultimately is was a lack of cutting edge that would prove to be their undoing on Boxing Day but at least they have had something to smile about during this festive period with a win over Watford this time last week. Pascal Gross’ second half goal was enough to give Brighton a slender home win over the Hornets.
It is apparent that Brighton could do with some more firepower, they have only scored 15 goals this season an average of just 0.75 goals per game. What however is working in their favour is that they have only conceded 25 goals at the other end, so although they are not free flowing in attack they are at least not leaky at the back.
1-0 wins seem to be the order of the day for Brighton but it is something that is certainly working as their current league placing will add testament to that, another three points today would see them move further clear from the teams below and maybe even as high as 11th. However there has to be some kind of response from Newcastle this afternoon and I have a feeling this one may end up with the points being shared.