New Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez faces an almost impossible task in his first game as he goes to league leader Leicester City on Monday Night.
Rafa Benitez will be hoping to get off to a good and surprising start when he takes his lackluster Newcastle side to the King Power Stadium on Monday Night. In his first press conference as boss, he was asked whether or not he felt the team and club were equipped to stay up:
I’ve done the maths. It is positive. We can do it. After that the future is brilliant because you have the power, the fans, the stadium and very positive things. You have the squad. – Rafa Benitez on avoiding relegation
Although Newcastle fans may think this is the guy to get them out of the bottom three come to the end of the season, and his managerial record shows this. He boasts an average win percentage of 56.6% going back to his previous 5 jobs (dating back to June 2004). Based off this, Newcastle would get a further 17 points, taking them to a season final total of 41, which based on the premier league era (with 20 teams), it would be enough to keep them up in all but one season. The Toon Army will be hoping they can claw to the target tonight and get a very, very surprising win over Leicester.
Leicester goes into this game off the back of a 1-0 win away at Watford, a game which saw them go 5 points clear at the top of the table with 10 games to go. Even if Tottenham beat Aston Villa, they go into the game knowing they’ll be top no matter the result. In his press conference, Claudio Ranieri was asked about his plans for the future with the team, specifically next season. He said:
Next year was to build slowly the foundation, to grow up, to achieve the Europa League, the Champions League, maybe one day fight for the title. This is our programme. Next season we restart with a new mentality. For example: ‘I don’t know what happened last season’. We must continue to build our team. – Claudio Ranieri
This is the start of a 6 game period that is crucial to the club, as they can’t afford to take any opponent, including Newcastle, for granted. Leicester needs to go out and do what they would normally do and not change anything up, which I don’t think Ranieri will. Leicester are in pole position to take home the title this season and have almost certainly got Champions League football, but they need to remain focus on these past few games to guarantee it. Some previous results show they can sometimes get slightly complacent, notably, the 1-1 draw away to Aston Villa and the 2-2 draw with West Brom only a couple of weeks ago. With their next few games coming against lower opposition (teams they seem to be dropping points against), only time can tell us if they will keep this dramatic season going.
Form in the last 10 Games:
Newcastle: L L D W L L W L L L
Leicester: D W D W W W L W D W
Head-to-Head Record (Past 5, Premier League Game unless stated):
November 2015: Newcastle 0 Leicester 3
May 2015: Leicester 3 Newcastle 0
January 2015 (FA Cup): Leicester 1 Newcastle 0
October 2014: Newcastle 1 Leicester 0
January 2010 (Championship): Leicester 0 Newcastle 0
Odds (Sky Bet):
Leicester City 1 Newcastle United 1 (6/1 with Sky Bet)
I’m going for a draw (hence why I said almost impossible) because no-one is really sure what Rafa’s tactics are going to be, including Ranieri. Also, because it’s his first game in charge, the team will want to impress because they all have something to prove. If Rafa can get the team playing well again, I think he can keep the team up and, as for Leicester, I think this game will be an uncharacteristic bump in the title race, which may cost them at the end of the season.
Leicester City vs Newcastle United is available from 7:00pm on Monday 14th March, Monday Night Football, Sky Sports 1