By the time kick-off comes around Newcastle could well find themselves in the bottom three of the Premier League, for that to happen Huddersfield will need to have won a first game in their last nine attempts (league only) but regardless of goings on in Yorkshire, Rafa Benitez’s men will be looking for vital points of their own.
The Magpies may have only lost once in their last six matches but they have only won once during the same period, one could argue that they have perhaps drawn too many games as of late but at the same time someone else could argue that they are at least picking up points.
Those points are just keeping them on the right side of the relegation dotted line (at time of writing) and this afternoon they will look to add to their tally when they play host to Manchester United at St James’ Park who will be looking for maximum points themselves albeit for far differing reasons.
Those reasons being that although they are lying second in the table at present they know that a win would keep them clear of what is looking at present to be a fight for the two remaining Champions League between three clubs, a win today would see them go seven points clear of Tottenham with Liverpool and Chelsea still to play.
Failure to win would not change all that much in the grand scheme of things but it would certainly give the quartet of teams below them hope that the Red Devils can still be caught and in turn make it a battle for three Champions League spots between four teams as we enter the final third of the season.
With Manchester City’s emphatic win over Leicester yesterday the title race is all but a procession now, even if United win today the gap can only be reduced to 13 points and it is a matter of when and not if Pep Guardiola’s men get their hands on the Premier League trophy.
So with that in mind it is all about trying to be the best of the rest, a claim that Jose Mourinho can at least hold on to at the moment, with the reason’s stated above he knows his players are not yet in a position to take their foot off of the pedal in a bid to make sure a return to the Champions League next season is confirmed.
But they could be in for a test this afternoon, obviously there is a wide chasm between both Newcastle and Manchester United in the table at present but at this point of the season it is arguably the worst time to be playing clubs who lie in the lower reaches.
That is because they are fighting for survival and every point matters right now, the Magpies were unlucky not to get all three last Sunday when they traveled to Crystal Palace, after going ahead they had to make do with just a point in the end.
A lack of goals has been a real problem for Newcastle this season and the hope will be that loan signing Islam Slimani can have an immediate impact for this new employers, the former Leicester City record capture has had to make do with being a bit part player for the past 18 months at the King Power Stadium.
And with that in mind it is fair to say that the Algerian certainly will have something to prove if he can beat the battle against a thigh injury which has prohibited him from making his debut for Newcastle. Rafa Benitez has only dealt in the loan market this year but the addition of Slimani could be priceless if he scores the goals that keep the club up.
However regardless if Slimani does start today I don’t think his impact will be enough to make a difference as Manchester United will go into this game as clear favourites and rightly so. It may be a hostile atmosphere but I can’t see anything other than the away side earning all three points at St James Park.