Rafa Benitez and his Newcastle side can take a huge leap towards automatic promotion as they take on Garry Monk’s Leeds Utd at St James Park tonight (KO 19:45).
There’s been plenty of intriguing ties at the summit of the Championship in recent weeks, and this Friday is no exception, as two of the leagues top five take each other on: Newcastle United and Leeds United.
Both are at the top end of the table, but they will be fighting for the points for different reasons this evening.
Its all getting very tight at the top of England’s second tier as the Championship automatic and playoff picture starting to take shape.
Newcastle United have a ten point gap over Huddersfield in third place with just five games remaining. In this sense, they’ve almost guaranteed themselves automatic promotion back to the Premier League next season.
Whilst Leeds sit some way off the top, they do sit inside the playoff positions and therefore will be looking to pick up as many points as possible between now and the end of the season.
Garry Monk’s side are not guaranteed a play off place, as with 15 points still left to play for, they are only 5 points ahead of 7th placed Fulham so defeat would really turn the pressure up at Elland Road.
The Lilywhites have struggled on the road this season, and have lost their last two matches away from Elland Road without scoring a goal so things really do have to change as they make the trip to St James Park.
Newcastle themselves have struggled to make St James the proverbial ‘fortress’ this season, with two narrow wins over lowly Burton and Wigan in their last two, which followed a draw with Bristol City and a defeat against Fulham.
Predictably, Newcastle are favourites for the home win and can be backed at around 4/6, a price which looks about right. Defeat at Sheffield Wednesday last week will have been a blow to confidence, and three points at home this evening would certainly steady the ship.
Interestingly, the Toon have taken more points on the road than at home this season, and with Dwight Gayle missing from the starting line up following a hamstring injury during their defeat at Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds may look at the team sheet and fancy their chances.
The 1-1 draw at 6/1 looks a a particularly juicy price, with both sides desperate not to lose and its one which is attracting plenty of attention, while under 2.5 goals at 8/11 could also reap rewards for punters.
There’s everything to play for and it should prove to be cracker – tension, fight and two sides looking for a return to Englands top tier.
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