Mohamed Diame

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Premier League 2017-18 preview – Newcastle United

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Newcastle’s not your typical newly promoted side.

After bouncing straight back from relegation and returning to the Premier League, where they spent have spent every season except two since the league’s inauguration in 1992. Both times Newcastle were relegated, they won the Championship and came straight back up.

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This time, they have as experienced a manager as a newly promoted side can have along for the ride. Newcastle proved strong in their bid to keep Rafa Benitez after relegation, and he delivered on his promise to get them back to the top flight. Now, staying there will be another battle altogether.

Best, worst case scenarios – Best-case scenario is that Newcastle returns to its former pedigree as a perennial top-half finisher. That’s not out of the question at all, considering they have a strong side that pulverized the Championship at times. Newcastle can break down any defense, with attacking talent that could surprise the Premier League with its quality.

Worst-case, this team flops hard and battles relegation again. The Magpies’ biggest weakness is facing a team like them, that possesses the ball and storms forward. They lost twice to Fulham last season in Championship play, a team most comparable to Newcastle’s style at that level. Should teams look to replicate this strategy, Benitez would be powerless as he watches his team pinned back and unable to push forward. This team isn’t vastly changed from when they were relegated, and that could prove a major downfall.


Best possible XI is…

Elliott

Yedlin — Lascelles — Lejeune — Dummett

Shelvey — Diame

Ritchie — Perez — Murphy

Gayle


[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

Transfers In: Jacob Murphy (Norwich City, $13.3 million), Florian Lejeune (Eibar, $11.7 million), Christian Atsu ($9 million), Javier Manquillo (Atletico Madrid, $5.9 million), Mikel Merino (Borussia Dortmund, Loan).

Transfers Out: Florian Thauvin (Marseille, $12.9 million), Daryl Murphy (Nottingham Forest, $2.7 million), Sammy Ameobi (Bolton, Free), Vurnon Anita (Leeds United, Free), Haris Vuckic (FC Twente, Free), Yoan Gouffran (Goztepe, Free).

Last season:

— 1st Place finish in Championship (Automatic promotion)
— FA Cup 4th Round (Lost to Oxford United)
— League Cup quarterfinals (Lost to Hull City)

Star player: Ayoze Perez — If asked for most important player, I probably would have gone with one of the two central defenders, who anchor this club. Florian Lejeune is a quality addition and will strengthen this defense considerably. However, it’s “star” player and that is without a doubt playmaker Ayoze Perez. The 22-year-old Spaniard can both create and score, and he racked up 12 goals and 7 assists last season in the Championship despite playing 1,400 less minutes than leading creators Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey. Perez will be a critical part of this Newcastle squad, and he’ll need to blossom this time around after misfiring in his first go at the Premier League campaign the Magpies’ relegation season.

Coaches’ Corner: Rafa Benitez is as experienced as they come for newly promoted sides. He is the only manager in history to have won the Champions League, Europa League, Club World Cup, and Super Cup titles, and he has Newcastle in good hands. While he fell from grace at Napoli and Real Madrid, taking charge of Newcastle is a completely different animal, and he passed the Championship meat grinder with flying colors. Back in the Premier League for a full season for the first time since 2010, Benitez has a quality squad to work with as Newcastle looks to continue its slow build back up.

PST predicts: This is a very deep team, which will be of utmost importance when the injuries inevitably hit. The attacking trio of Matt Ritchie, Ayoze Perez, and new signing Jacob Murphy have plenty of support in Christian Atsu, Siem De Jong, Henri Saivet (should he stay). In addition, the midfield is strengthened by Borussia Dortmund loanee Mikel Marino and Jack Colback. The quality in depth coupled with Rafa Benitez’s guiding means this squad should be comfortably in the Premier League, with a safe bottom-half finish. The only slip could be if the players who failed to keep the club afloat last time perform below standards a second time.

WATCH: Did Newcastle score the luckiest goal of the year?

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We repeat: Did Newcastle United just score the luckiest goal of the year (assuming you believe in luck)?

Trailing 1-0 at then first place Brighton and Hove Albion, Christian Atsu flubbed a shot from the middle of the box that bounded off the plant leg of Mohamed Diame and spun into the goal for an equalizer.

The Magpies would later score a winner for Rafa Benitez via Ayoze Perez, sending them above the Seagulls atop the Football League Championship with a 2-1 win.

[ MORE: Which LFC players are playing for their futures? ]

I mean, really, look at that thing:

Perhaps it was karma because…

EFL Cup quarters: Liverpool rolls, Hull City advances in PKs

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A Liverpool team without most of its stars still found a way to wear down Leeds United to make its way to the EFL Cup semifinals, while the other Premier League side struggled with its Championship competition.

[ MORE: USMNT, Sunderland’s Gooch hurt ]

The pair of games are a prelude to a duo of high-profile Wednesday quarterfinals, as Southampton and Arsenal play as do West Ham and Manchester United.

Liverpool 2-0 Leeds United

A sincerely second-choice Liverpool hosted Garry Monk and Leeds United on Tuesday, with Divock Origi sliding to poke Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s cross home in the 76th minute. Ben Woodburn, 17, made it 2-0 when he finished a cross-six combination between Georginio Wiljnaldum and Origi.

The Reds should’ve been up at the break, and Emre Can came oh-so-close to prodding a bad giveaway home in the 33rd minute when his toe-poke rolled agonizingly wide of the Leeds goal.

And the Whites didn’t go away at all. In fact, Leeds’ counter was electric apart from the finish as the game passed the hour mark and crept toward extra time.

Both sides hit a post in the second half, with Wijnaldum belting one off the far post in the 72nd minute before United blocked a rebound effort.

Hull City 1-1 (3-1, PKs) Newcastle United

Rafa Benitez‘s Magpies lead the Championship division, and looked the part of a Premier League side in battling the relegation-struggling Tigers. Isaac Hayden, Matt Ritchie, and Mohamed Diame were among those belting first half shots close to goal.

The second half saw Hull find chances through Jake Livermore and Robert Snodgrass, the latter especially dangerous for the hosts.

Things got dicey as the match neared extra time, with a confrontation between Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles and Hull’s Dieumerci Mbokani and Tom Huddlestone ended with Mbokani sent off.

It was off to extra time, where ex-Hull man Diame’s goal off a Vurnon Anita cross was immediately countered by Snodgrass to leave it 1-1 after 105 minutes.

USMNT man DeAndre Yedlin entered the game in the 109th minute, and missed a late chance to win it.

Jonjo Shelvey was saved by Eldin Jakupovic on Newcastle’s first penalty, and Dwight Gayle missed the Magpies’ second offer. Hull made its first three, and Yoan Gouffran had his saved. The Tigers moved on.

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Newcastle looks poised for bounce-back with Gayle on fire

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Newcastle United made some bold moves this summer, having been relegated the previous year after a horrid Premier League season. Those decisions look to be paying off.

The Magpies are set for yet another one-and-done season in the Championship in what would be their second of the sort since 1989. Newcastle scratched and clawed in the second tier back in the 2010/11 season, and they won the league to bounce straight back up to the Premier League. This season looks set for a repeat as Rafa Benitez has them top of the table following a 2-0 win over fifth-placed Leeds United.

Summer signing Dwight Gayle found the back of the net yet again – twice – his 12th and 13th Championship goals of the season. That sees him top of the individual chart as well, three above both Brighton’s Glenn Murray and Brentford’s Scott Hogan.

It’s only fitting that Benitez and Gayle have the club ready to rocket straight back up. There was plenty of risk involved with keeping on someone of Benitez’s pedigree, and therefore price, with the club dropping down. They spent big on both Gayle and Bournemouth’s Matt Ritchie, also spending hefty sums on Mats Selz, DeAndre Yedlin, Ciaran Clark, Mohamed Diame, and Grant Hanley.

There’s still plenty of time to go, but at the moment the Magpies look like the team to beat in the Championship, exactly what they hoped for after a disastrous last few years in the Premier League, plus two straight losses to start the year. Since, they’ve won 13 of 15, including eight straight, and calls for Mike Ashley’s head have quieted with the team five clear at the top.

Expect to see Newcastle back in the Premier League next season. Unless something goes horribly wrong, that is; after all, it’s Mike Ashley and the Championship.

EFL Cup: Liverpool, Arsenal move on; Newcastle hangs six

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Five of eight EFL Cup quarterfinalists are set with three matches to come on Wednesday.

Liverpool, Arsenal, Newcastle United, and Hull City clinched spots in the quarterfinals with Tuesday wins. Leeds United took the fifth spot with a rousing match that ended in penalty kicks.

[ MORE: Ballon d’Or omissions ]

Wednesday will see Manchester United vs. Manchester City, West Ham against Chelsea, and Southampton versus Sunderland.

United States men Cameron Carter-Vickers (Spurs) and DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle) started their respective matches. Gedion Zelalem played the final 10 minutes for Arsenal.

Arsenal 2-0 Reading

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored with a hard, low shot from a tight angle to give the hosts a lead, and then buttressed the score with a second half marker. Zelalem then replace “Ox” in the 80th minute.

Newcastle United 6-0 Preston North End

The “Rafalution” has Benitez’s Magpies atop the Championship, and they are thriving in the EFL Cup as well.

Mo Diame gave Newcastle an insurance goal after Aleksandar Mitrovic headed a Matt Ritchie free kick home to make it 1-0. In between those goals, Preston went down a man.

Spark plug Ritchie buried a penalty early in the second half to make it academic. Mitrovic added his second in the 55th minute, while Diame completed his brace with three minutes to play and Ayoze Perez finished the scoring in stoppage time.

Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Daniel Sturridge went to the dirty areas to poke home a very Daniel Sturridge goal, the first of two on the night in a win at Anfield.

Sturridge gave American centerback Cameron Carter-Vickers headaches all day, and Spurs goalkeeper Michel Vorm helped keep the match within a goal.

But Sturridge beat Kevin Wimmer‘s offside track and walked in alone on Vorm to slot home for a strengthened lead.

A soft penalty off an Erik Lamela dive gifted Spurs the chance to draw within one, and Vincent Janssen converted the opportunity.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25: Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool (C) celebrates scoring his sides first goal with his Liverpool team mates during the EFL Cup fourth round match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on October 25, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Bristol City 1-2 Hull City

There wasn’t much to like at Ashton Gate before Harry Maguire put the Tigers up before the break. That may have weakened the hosts’ resolve, and Michael Dawson netted right after halftime to double Hull’s advantage.

Lee Tomlin scored a goal for Bristol City just before the final whistle.

Leeds United 2-2 Norwich City (PKs, 3-2)

Longtime Spurs property Alex Pritchard has his first Canaries goal with this marker at Elland Road. Leeds had a goal pulled back for a handball, and then equalized properly through Marcus Antonsson. That 1-1 score line held up through 90 minutes

Pritchard then provided the assist on Nelson Oliveira‘s extra time winner, but Garry Monk‘s men responded through New Zealand striker Chris Wood to push it toward penalties.

Leeds advanced by converting three penalties to Norwich’s two.