Make or break week for Newcastle
Make no bones about it, this week is absolutely crucial to Newcastle United. Now one of the richest clubs in the world, the Magpies will be in serious relegation trouble should they fail to win any of their next two games.
Newcastle's situation is already bleak following their 2-0 defeat to Arsenal on Saturday. Rock bottom of the Premier League table, winless in 13 games, and six points adrift of safety, Eddie Howe's men now face back-to-back home games against Norwich and Burnley, the two other teams also occupying the relegation places.
Six points will be the target, four points acceptable, but winning their first game of the season is an absolute must for Newcastle. The last three clubs to start a top flight season without a win after 15 games were Sheffield United (2020-21), QPR (2013-14), and Swindon Town (1993-94).
Not only did all those clubs get relegated, all three finished rock bottom of the table.
But there is hope for the Magpies. They score goals for starters; their 15 scored this season is the same as or more than four clubs - Arsenal, Wolves, Tottenham and Brighton - currently sitting in the top eight of the Premier League.
And since Howe took charge Newcastle already look a far more attacking team and able to keep themselves in games. They have enjoyed over 30 shots, with 14 of them being on target, in their two matches under the new boss.
Recent form good but lack of goals a major worry
Norwich are upwardly mobile. Back-to-back 2-1 wins and a goalless draw with Wolves on Saturday means the Canaries have taken seven points from the last nine available, enough to see them climb off the bottom of the table.
And like Newcastle, Norwich have a new manager. Dean Smith is the man in charge at Carrow Road, and in his two games to date his side have had 22 shots at goal with eight being on target, basically about two thirds of what Newcastle achieved in their two games under Howe.
Scoring goals is undoubtedly Norwich's big problem however. They've managed just seven all season, and their average xG per game of 0.92 is the lowest in the Premier League by some distance. Away from home the Canaries failed to score in five successive games prior to their 2-1 win at out-of-form Brentford last time.
Just four players have found the back of the net in the Premier League for Norwich this season, two of those are defenders and another, Mathias Normann is likely to miss Tuesday's game after coming off against Wolves with a pelvic injury. Striker Teemu Pukki has four goals to his name this term, but it seems if he doesn't score then neither do the Canaries.
No surprise at Newcastle being strong favourites
Despite not winning a single game this season Newcastle look worthy favourites to take all three points on Tuesday night.
Some might be surprised that Howe's men are available at just 1.981/1 in the Match Odds market (Norwich 4.216/5, Draw 3.7511/4) but we have to remember that Norwich are perceived by many - including the layers in the Relegation market - to be the worst team in the division.
They don't score many goals, they don't have many goalscoring threats, and their aggregate score from their first five away games this season reads 15-0!
Newcastle do carry at threat, especially on the counter attack with the pace of Allan Saint-Maximin and the goalscoring instincts of Callum Wilson, and I have a feeling that the Canaries will go to St James' Park with the intention of going on the front foot, and that ultimately could be their undoing.
In front of a packed home crowd I'm expecting a comfortable victory for Newcastle, and will back them -1 on the handicap at 3.814/5.
First clean sheet of the season beckons
They eventually conceded two goals at Arsenal on Saturday but for long periods of the game Newcastle looked very well organised in what was their first game with Eddie Howe managing them from the sidelines.
If they perform to a similar level against Norwich then they ought to be able to keep a clean sheet, especially against a team that have failed to score in five of their six away games this term.
True, you have to consider that the Magpies haven't keep a clean sheet in the league all season, and that they've conceded five in two games since Howe took over, but without being too disrespectful to Tuesday night's visitors, a home game against Norwich should, in theory, be Newcastle's easiest opportunity of the campaign.
They can be backed at 3.613/5 to Win to Nil and that's another wager I'm happy to have.