COMMENT by Russell Edge
Newcastle visit the Cardiff City Stadium having secured promotion to the Premier League and they can apply pressure to league leaders Brighton with victory over the Bluebirds.
A win would see Rafael Benitez’s side climb to within a point of the table topping Seagulls, although they’re reliant on Brighton dropping points to retain any hopes of clinching the league title.
Cardiff meanwhile find themselves in mid-table obscurity in 13th, only able to rise two places with a win, while a draw or a defeat could see them leapfrogged by Newcastle’s final opponents of the season Barnsley.
Here, Football Insider analyses three things to expect when the Magpies take on the Bluebirds:
Despite their league standings, Cardiff have been a decent side in front of their own fans, picking up 11 of their 17 wins when playing at home.
They also hold a home defensive record comparable to those at the top of the Championship, conceding 24 goals at the Cardiff City Stadium, Newcastle and Huddersfield having conceded 23 at St James’ Park and the John Smith’s Stadium respectively.
However, the Welsh side have failed to find the net in just under a third of their games this season.
Although Newcastle can expect a resilient defence from Cardiff, which will not be helped by the absence of top scorer Dwight Gayle, one goal may prove enough to settle the difference between the two sides.
With the season coming to a close, and the league title a slim hope for Newcastle, these two matches could prove to be the start of Rafa Benitez’s preparations for life in the top flight once again.
A man who likes to stick to his guns when it comes to tactics, these final fixtures against Cardiff and Barnsley could prove the ideal opportunity to run the rule over fringe players, experiment new tactics and identify what needs to be improved before the Premier League season kicks off.
A few of the Magpies’ first team stars might even think about putting up their feet, in order to recover after a gruelling Championship season and prepare for what lies ahead in the Premier League.
End of season madness
It can only be expected that in the final few games people are going to begin to lose their heads as frustrations boil over or complacency kicks in.
It could be some diabolical defending, a manager losing his cool, a wild tackle or just an unbelievable result – football fans have seen it all.
Both Newcastle and Cardiff have seen two men dismissed in the league this season, and it could very well prove to be more on Friday night.
The Magpies experienced some madness in their 4-1 win on Monday, as Preston defender Paul Gallagher channelled his inner Gordon Banks and saved Yoan Gouffran’s shot on the line.
However, they can expect some more to come their way in these final weeks as opposition players look to knock them down a few pegs after their promotion success.
In other Newcastle news, the actions of owner Mike Ashley have cast new doubts over the future of Rafa Benitez.