Newcastle United vs. Brighton
Venue: St James’ Park
Kick off: 5:30PM
Back in April, when Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United played out an uninspiring 1-1 draw on the south coast in one of the final matches of last season, there was little real indication of the speed of upheaval that would follow in the summer at both clubs.
Rafael Benitez and Chris Hughton, two respected coaches known for fashioning more than the sum of the parts from their squads, swiftly departed, with surprise replacements Graham Potter and Steve Bruce – two managers some would argue representing contrasting philosophies – subsequently installed.
Saturday’s late kickoff at St James’ Park, then, comes with both sides still in a state of transition, making games like this potentially instructive in attempting to deduce how their long-term success might be impacted by those changes.
There have been signs of hope on Tyneside and in Sussex, mainly sparked by a couple of excellent away wins that have suggested the luxury of midtable might not be beyond the reach of these sides.
Albion went first, winning 3-0 at Watford in Potter’s first game in charge, suggesting a resounding endorsement of his preferred new style of persistent passing, bravery in possession and formational fluidity.
Newcastle had an unsurprisingly bleak start to the season, repeating their form of previous years by losing both their first two matches before shocking Tottenham Hotspur at their own stadium to set in motion a sense of revival helped by a draw with Watford and having the temerity to take an early lead at Liverpool.
Nevertheless, the Magpies have a solitary win in six matches at home, losing three times and still looking for their first victory – and first lead – of the season on their own turf.
Like United with that Spurs result, Albion’s early upset remains their only win so far, although they held the lead at home to West Ham United and Burnley before conceding equalisers.
Meanwhile, the Seagulls have one win in their last six on the road, although they picked up a point on trips to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Arsenal and were praised for their boldness by Pep Guardiola following a 4-0 defeat at Manchester City at the end of August.
A textbook Albion performance produced a 1-0 win at St James’ Park in the early passages of last season, compounding Newcastle’s traditional lacklustre start to the campaign by scoring an early winner through midfielder Beram Kayal, who has since moved to Charlton Athletic.
Newcastle are familiar with Brighton, having encountered these opponents several times over recent seasons, but will be wary of a record that stands at just two wins out of the last 12 meetings, winning on one of the last five times Brighton have visited.
This match has been decided by a single goal on three of the last five occasions, with the other two resulting in draws.
Newcastle possible XI: Dubravka, Krafth, Lascelles, Schar, Dummett, Willems, Almiron, Hayden, Longstaff, Atsu, Joelinton.
Brighton possible XI: Ryan, Burn, Dunk, Webster, Duffy, Montoya, Gross, Propper, Stephens, March, Maupay.