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Everton at Newcastle: The Opposition View

We chatted with Newcastle fan and writer Graeme Bell prior to Saturday’s clash

Newcastle United v Everton FC - Premier League
Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored in Everton’s 3-2 defeat at Newcastle last season
Photo by Steven Hadlow/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Everton’s final game of 2019 sees them travel to St. James’ Park to take on Newcastle United for the first time this season.

It marks Carlo Ancelotti’s first away game in charge of the Blues after he started his Everton career with a deserved but late 1-0 home win over Burnley on Boxing Day.

Newcastle were tipped to battle relegation this term under Steve Bruce after Rafael Benítez’s summer departure, but have surprised many to sit tenth in the league at the halfway point of the campaign.

They will need a response after they were thumped 4-1 at Manchester United last time out, but have not lost at home since the opening day.

Ahead of Saturday’s game, we spoke to Newcastle fan and writer Graeme Bell:

RBM: Firstly, is Steve Bruce getting enough credit for the job he has done as Newcastle manager so far?

Graeme: He isn’t. We’ve done a lot better than anyone thought. Bruce was always fighting a losing battle after following Rafael Benítez but he’s done extremely well in very tough circumstances.

Newcastle United v Manchester City - Premier League
Bruce has presided over a good first half to his maiden Newcastle season
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

RBM: In what ways do Newcastle under Bruce differ on the field to Newcastle under Benítez?

Graeme: Newcastle are a lot more open under Bruce; they get forward a bit more. Under Benítez, Newcastle focused on being defensively sound.

RBM: Despite the seemingly endless protests against the owners at St. James’ Park, Newcastle’s home form has been particularly strong this season. What’s the secret behind this?

Graeme: It’s come as a bit of a surprise, to be honest. There’s been some games at home where Newcastle have been awful but still managed to get something from the match; Watford [1-1] and Brighton [0-0] spring to mind. Poor performances, but they managed to get a draw out of both fixtures.

Newcastle United v Crystal Palace - Premier League - St James’ Park
Newcastle are unbeaten in their last eight home league games
Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

RBM: What do you think represents a successful season for Newcastle this year?

Graeme: If someone told me we’d be sat tenth at this stage of the season in the summer, I’d have thought you were bonkers. A top-half finish should be the target.

RBM: Newcastle’s club-record signing, £40 million striker Joelinton, has scored only once, and not since August. Is he struggling due mainly to poor finishing or a lack of service from his team-mates?

Graeme: He’s been playing in a position that isn’t his natural one, which makes it more difficult. He’s still very young, which I think a lot of fans forget.

He’s been feeding off scraps all season. With Andy Carroll coming into the side it gives Joelinton more support, which can only benefit him.

Newcastle United v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Joelinton has only scored once for Newcastle since his summer move
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

RBM: A lot has been made of the Longstaff brothers, Sean and Matty, this season. Both central midfielders, what do they each add in the centre of the pitch?

Graeme: Sean is more defensive than Matty. Matty brings a lot of energy to the midfield; he’s a composed finisher too. Sean has had a poor start to the season, but I don’t think he’s been the same since his injury towards the end of last season.

RBM: How do you expect Newcastle to set up on Saturday?

Graeme: Dependent on injuries, as Bruce has quite a few on the treatment table at present.

Possible XI: Dúbravka, Yedlin, Lejeune, Fernandez, Schär, Willems, Shelvey, Hayden, Almirón, Carroll, Joelinton.

Manchester United v Newcastle United - Premier League - Old Trafford
Dúbravka has been a solid performer for Newcastle this season, though his mistake led to a goal in the Boxing Day defeat at United
Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images

RBM: Which of Newcastle’s players do you think can cause Everton the most problems?

Graeme: Miguel Almirón; full of confidence after finally breaking his duck in the last home game against Crystal Palace. Almirón’s energy can cause Everton all sorts of problems.

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?

Graeme: I’m predicting a close game, one that I think Newcastle will just nick. I’m going for a 1-0 win.

Our thanks to Graeme for his time.