Can Newcastle United keep the pace in Champions League race?

Newcastle have been one of my favourite team this season, they play some nice football, have some exciting players and have fans who specialize in making St.James’ Park rock at every opportunity. The run they have been on over the last 6 games has been exceptional – well you can’t ask for much more than 6 wins. Alan Pardew has made some great signings that have improved Newcastle this season and their impact on the team has taken the side from mid-table mediocrity to top-four challengers. But have Newcastle got what it takes to make it over the finish line in fourth place?

Newcastle’s final league position this season is going to depend on a few different things – Player performance, team performance and their remaining opposition. So I decided to take a look at the key men and the team performance data before predicting the results of their up coming fixtures. To see if I can predict how many points they will finish on.

Key Men

Papiss Cisse has been a revelation at Newcastle; since he signed for the club he has started 9 games, coming on once as sub and has scored a remarkable 11 goals already. When managers go out in January and sign strikers, they think to themselves ‘if he can get 10 goals then he will have been worth his weight in gold’ and that is exactly what Cisse has done. Cisse had hit 9 goals in 17 games for Freiburg in the Bundesliga, so has massively over performed so far for the Magpies. Then again, Cisse did score 24 goals in 34 games last season for the German club and clearly has goals in him.

Cisse’s goals have been vital since he arrived as Demba Ba’s seem to have dried up – he has only scored once since January. Cisse is clearly over-achieving, he has the best goal-to-game ratio in the league above the likes of van Persie, Aguero and Rooney and this cannot go on forever, although confidence is a wonderful thing. Based on his scoring rate from his previous best season, you could predict that Cisse may only score one more goal, but time will tell and Ba could step up anyway.

The other key men for Newcastle are Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye. A lot has been asked of both of these players this season, they have been the first choice pairing for the majority of the season. Tiote has played 10 games less due to injury and the African Cup of Nations, but both are vital for this run-in.  They have been an amazing defensive shield that has protected the Newcastle back-line resolutely, but they must continue to do this if Newcastle are to continue the pace. Cabaye has chipped in with 4 goals and 6 assists, whilst Tiote has contributed just one assist. If Newcastle are to keep winning, the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa and Jonas Gutierrez will have to provide for the front men and let Tiote and Cabaye concentrate on keeping the team defensively sound as they come up against much stronger opposition.

 

Team Performance

When you actually analyse Newcastle’s performance statistics they are not performing as well as you would think. Over the last 6 games they have hit a winning-streak, however on average they have been out passed, out crossed and have been lucky to have been up against teams that are struggling to create convertible opportunities in front of goal. Credit should be given to Newcastle for only having conceded 1 goal in the last 6 and also because they are scoring goals despite not creating much with a overall conversion rate of scoring 1-in-3 chances. If they want to get results in their up coming games they will need to create a lot more chances and they are actually one of the league’s lowest crossing sides. The area in which they dominate games is in midfield by winning challenges and interceptions, which is why Tiote and Cabeye are so vital to the teams continued success.

 

Upcoming Fixtures

Wigan Away – This is a tough game with Wigan fighting for their lives and Newcastle will have to proceed with caution as Wigan have registered some solid home wins lately against Stoke and most notably Manchester United. Saying that, this is a game that Newcastle should win. Wigan have been generally poor, but they always keep games tight and haven’t conceded 3 or more goals since January.

Prediction: Win

Chelsea Away – This could well end up as Newcastle’s biggest game of the season and the bad news is Chelsea have also hit form of late. The big question in this game will be whether Newcastle can create enough opportunities to out-score Chelsea – Chelsea statistically should score as they have only failed not to score at Stamford Bridge twice this season. It will be won and lost in midfield, but it is all to play for.

Prediction: Lose

Manchester City Home – Another huge game and Manchester City could still have everything to play for. Manchester City are joint top for the number of goals scored away from home, so they will be hunting goals at St.James’ Park, but they are beatable having lost 5 times on the road this season. At this stage of the season, both teams may have to go for it so anything could happen.

Prediction: Lose

Everton Away – Goodison Park is always a difficult place to go and for the final home game of the season the Toffee’s should be up for it despite having little to play for. Everton may not score many at home, but they don’t concede many either and Newcastle will have their work cut out to breach Everton’s defence.

Prediction: Draw

Total Points: 66

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  1. Gary the Great says:

    I can see your point with this article, we have been on a very good run but against beatable teams. Our loss to Wigan (which was a wrong prediction by you – I didn’t see it coming either) makes your realise that we are not the finished article and we are largely over-achieving. You have to enjoy the good times when they come and this season has certainly been that. Would take Europa Lge as want a euro tour.

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