Newcastle v Swansea
Saturday 13 January, 15:00
False dawn for the Magpies
After back-to-back wins for the first time since September, Newcastle could be taking on bottom club Swansea at just the right time but does victory over a Stoke side with Mark Hughes still at the helm and an FA Cup triumph over second division Luton really represent a big improvement in form?
Prior to their 1-0 victory in the Potteries on New Year's Day, the Magpies had won just two of their last 16 Premier League matches and their ardent support won't be getting carried away with a narrow win against a dire Stoke side and a 3-1 home victory against the Hatters, that may not have been as emphatic as the score suggests. The game was put to bed with three Toon goals in a calamitous nine-minute spell before halftime but having pulled one back after the break, Luton hit the bar and had a goal ruled out for offside, so it wasn't all one-way traffic.
Influential defender, Jamaal Lascelles, is a slight doubt for Newcastle having been substituted after he took a knock in the first half against Luton.
Signs of improvement under Carlos
After just three games in charge, surprise new Swans manager, Carlos Carvalhal, has enjoyed a reasonable honeymoon period. His first three games in charge have produced mixed results but plenty of promise and this is a crunch match for the league's only Welsh representatives.
A last gasp 2-1 win away at an out of form Watford at the close of the year was followed by a 2-0 home defeat to Spurs but the Swans were far from outplayed at the Liberty Stadium and they were arguably a tad unlucky. Ex-Swan, Llorente, opened the scoring with a goal that should have been ruled out for offside and the result was still in the balance right up until the 89th minute when Dele Alli sealed the win for Spurs. A nil-nil draw away at Championship highfliers Wolves in the FA Cup last Saturday was a respectable enough effort and they're playing better than their current league position suggests.
Toon too short at odds-on
They may have tentatively turned a corner, but the stats suggest Newcastle are too short at a shade of odds-on. They're seeking their third top-flight clean sheet in-a-row for the first time since 2014, their first league double over Swansea since the 1983/84 Division Two season, they haven't scored in their last three premier league home games and they've failed to win their last six Premier League ties at St James'.
Newcastle are looking to win three games in-a-row for the first time since September when they beat West Ham 3-0, Swansea 1-0 and Stoke 2-1, and it won't be easy given the Swans' impressive record at Newcastle. Newcastle and Swansea have met 11 times in the Premier League and the Swans have taken all three points more often than not. They've won six in total - three at home and three away - and only once have they been beaten at St James' Park.
Goals should be in short supply but the Swans can edge it
Both teams badly need a talisman up front. Ayoze Perez got the solitary goal at Stoke and he bagged a couple more against Luton in the Cup but that 'hot streak' only takes his season tally to a meagre four and he's the club's leading scorer. Swansea's main man in front of goal, Tammy Abraham, has scored only one more than Perez but he hasn't bagged in any of his last 12 Premier League appearances and the entire team have only managed 13 league goals all season.
A low scoring affair looks highly likely so it's no surprise to see Under 2.5 Goals odds-on at 1.645/8. That's where it should be and it's not of any interest but I quite like exactly two goals at an industry best 12/5.
Newcastle average bang-on two goals scored and conceded at home and Swansea average 2.18 scored and conceded away. Newcastle have gained exactly half of their (22) points at home and Swansea have done the same. They've picked up eight points at the Liberty Stadium and eight on the road, so a tight low scoring match looks on the cards.
Historically, Swansea's record at Newcastle is as good as at any away ground in the Premier League, they appear to be improving slightly under the new manager and they may well prove difficult to beat, so Swansea - Draw No Bet at 11/5 looks decent and given Newcastle have lost three games 1-0 at St James' Park already this season, and that their last two victories could be offering up a false dawn, the industry best price of 10/1 about Swansea edging it by the very same margin is appealing.
One of the more inconspicuous and better-quality refs, Graham Scott, officiates on Saturday, and like the two teams involved, he's averaged less than two yellow cards a game so far this season and he' issued just one red - to Watford's Miguel Britos back in August.