I’d say that’s about right. They beat West Ham on the opening day and moved straight up to fourth, lost, to Brighton quite convincingly, then held Tottenham and recorded a comfortable 3-1 victory against Burnley, leaving them in the top half by the time of the first international break in October. They’ve been unable to string a run of good results together since really, but, overall, they look to be in a much better position than last season, when it took them until October to shake off relegation fears. They’ve had a Covid outbreak to deal with over the last few weeks, too, though, and it remains to be seen how that will affect them going forward.
The Magpies’ road to the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup has been a little bit different; after a 7-0 thumping of Morecambe, Newport took them to a shootout, which they came through unscathed. Having got to this stage of the competition, do you think they now have their sights on a spot at Wembley?
Absolutely. They won the Championship in the 2009/10 and 2016/17 campaigns but their last major domestic silverware was when they lifted the FA Cup in 1955. They reached the quarter-final of that competition last term, in fact, but never really had a look-in against a strong Man City side at St James’ Park. Even if they return to Tyneside victorious they’ll know that, with the level of the teams still in the competition, getting to Wembley will require all the guts and guile they can muster.
With the transfer window set to open in a matter of days, in which areas will the club be keen to strengthen ahead of the second half of the season?
At the time of writing, Newcastle have scored the third-lowest number of goals of any team not in the Premier League relegation zone, so you’d imagine they’ll have their sights set on attacking reinforcements. To back that up, a total of 11 players have scored in all competitions this season but only Callum Wilson has more than two. Bournemouth’s Josh King and Tottenham’s Dele Alli have been linked with loan moves over the last month, as has Man Utd’s Phil Jones but it’s getting to the time of year where you have to take newspaper speculation with a pinch of salt.
Which player should Brentford fans be keeping an eye on on Tuesday night?
Wilson has been the club’s talisman so far this season but is unlikely to be risked in west London and while Joelinton could feature, providing he’s selected, Dwight Gayle could pose a threat to the Bees. The 31-year-old, who is a familiar face for Brentford fans after his goal-laden loan spell at West Brom two seasons ago, scored in his first game of the season to secure a 2-1 win over the Baggies 10 days ago and will be keen to make up for time lost due to injury. Jacob Murphy is another one to look out for, due to his lightning pace and enterprise on the flank.
How is Steve Bruce likely to set up his side at the Brentford Community Stadium?
The Newcastle boss has named strong teams in the three previous rounds and you’d expect that will be the case for this one. Against Newport, the Magpies set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with the following players: Gillespie, Manquillo, Krafth, Fernandez, Lewis, S Longstaff, Shelvey, Murphy, Almiron Fraser, Carroll.
Newcastle have won each of the last six meetings, with Brentford’s last win back in January 1948. What’s your score prediction for this one?
Having reached this stage of the competition, I think both sides will have Wembley in their sights, so I’m going to stick my neck out and go for an entertaining 2-2 draw in normal time. I’d find it hard to split them if it went to a shootout, though Newcastle beat Newport via that medium in the third round, so will be well prepared.
Tomorrow's game is exclusively live on Sky Sports.
Audio Match Passes to listen live on iFollow Brentford are available to buy for £2.50
Click here to buy