COMMENT By Dominic Toner
Newcastle have three colossal games coming up in the next week and they will know a lot more about their promotion chances after them.
The Magpies are currently second in the Championship table and are in a strong position to return to the Premier League.
However, Rafael Benitez’s side have three massive matches in the next seven days and that starts Tuesday night away to league leaders Brighton.
They then travel to third-placed Huddersfield on Saturday, before another away match against fifth-placed Reading.
Football Insider looks at three dangermen who Newcastle will need to keep a close eye on during this difficult run-in.
Anthony Knockaert (Brighton)
Brighton have several talented players in their ranks, but none are as skilful as tricky winger Anthony Knockaert. The 25-year-old has made just nine Premier League appearances with Leicester in his career, but looks ready to make the step up. He has been in great form for the Seagulls this season and helped them reach the Championship summit. Knockaert is surely going to test Newcastle’s left-back Paul Dummett and goalkeeper Karl Darlow will also have to be on his toes. The Frenchman has made 32 appearances this season, scoring 11 goals and supplying seven assists. Newcastle will need to keep Knockaert quiet if they are to secure three away points.
Elias Kachunga (Huddersfield)
Arguably Newcastle’s biggest game in the next week is against Huddersfield, who are chasing down the top two automatic spots. David Wagner’s side are in great form right now and are unbeaten in their last nine games across all competitions. They have several dangerous attacking threats and one of them is German attacker Elias Kachunga. The 24-year-old has lit up the Championship during his loan spell with Huddersfield this season. He can play anywhere across the frontline and has been a real handful for opponents to deal with. Kachunga has scored 11 goals in 36 appearances this season and will be desperate to make the impact in the big clash with Newcastle, meaning Benitez’s defence will need to be fully focused.
John Swift (Reading)
Newcastle travel to Reading in the final test of their three-game run-in and will come up against Jaap Stam’s side. They have one of the best young players in the Championship in central midfielder John Swift. The 21-year-old swooped the EFL Young Player of the Month for January and he is a great driving force behind Reading’s play-off pursuit this season. He personifies the possession-based style under Stam and also has a good eye for goal. Swift has also been heavily involved in his side’s attacking movements this season, scoring eight goals and supplying five assists in 29 appearances.
In other Newcastle news, the club’s supporters have urged Rafael Benitez to drop this midfielder against Brighton.