After a comfortable and trouble free night against Wolves, drawing Preston at home appeared to come with a shiny envelope containing Newcastle’s golden ticket to the quarter-final. However, Preston are one of the most in-form teams in the Championship right now, fresh off an away win against our fellow promotion rivals Norwich and very much motivated to cause their second upset this week. Preston’s recent run of form has seen them beat Huddersfield and take an away point at Brighton so Newcastle are in for more of a fight than first thought.
Newcastle, however, come into the tie having won their past five games and only conceding once in their last four. With over 45,000 expected at St James’, Newcastle should still be able to come away with a win. Rafa will most probably make a fair number of changes considering his use of rotation so far this season. This would lead me to believe that Mitrović or Murphy will start in order to rest Dwight Gayle and also Diamé to come in for Ayoze Pérez, despite his two goals at the weekend.
Vernon Anita was rested for Yedlin so I would expect to see him return to the line-up along with Achraf Lazaar to rest Paul Dummett. Grant Hanley can also be expected to start in order to rest either Clark or Lascelles who have both started the last three games.
Even with rotation, on paper Newcastle should be able to brush aside Preston at home, but as Wolves and Huddersfield proved, a packed out St James’ is no guarantee of a win and the players will have to respond to the support and also give Preston something to worry about when we travel to theirs on Saturday. The priority is obviously the league and promotion but I guess a cup run won’t do us any harm, even if we are knocked out by Man City away in the next round.
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