Perez brings Newcastle three points closer to safety (video)

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  • Perez scored his seventh Premier League goal of the season
  • Almiron played 78 minutes before being substituted
  • Vardy fails to score after three goals in two games
  • Newcastle up to 13th place on 38 points

Ayoze Perez scored a first half header and Newcastle’s stayed resolute against late Leicester City pressure to secure three crucial points on the road. Newcastle defeated Leicester City, 1-0, at the King Power Stadium on Friday evening, with James Maddison nullified at one end and Perez scoring the winner at the other.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

January signing Miguel Almiron was like the energizer bunny, constantly making lung-bursting dribbles forward down the wing or through the heart of the defense to help push the ball out of Newcastle’s half of the field, though he failed to score again.

With the win, Newcastle moves up to 13th place with 38 points, and may have just secured safety in the Premier League for another season. Newcastle now sits ten points above Cardiff, which is in the final place in the drop zone to head back down to relegation. For Leicester, it remains in seventh place, but it has played two more games than eighth-place Wolves. Both clubs are on 47 points in the table.

Leicester City seemed to set out to pass their way through the Newcastle defense, with Rafa Benitez‘s side sitting in a low block and inviting pressure to allow Perez and Almiron to race forward and create counter attacking chances. Newcastle came closest to scoring in the 15th minute, when Solomon Rondon absolutely smashed a curling free kick off the crossbar, before it was headed away to safety by Leicester City.

The Magpies did get on the board finally thanks to some strong dribbling work at first from Almiron. The Paraguayan tried to dribble through two Leicester City defenders before Ricardo Pereira stepped in and knocked the ball away. It fell though right to Matt Ritchie and in the 32nd minute, Ritchie’s near-post cross was flicked past Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel and in for a goal.

Leicester City took the game to Newcastle in the second half, but just couldn’t find its way past the Newcastle backline. Leicester City’s best chance of the match came in the 78th minute. Star forward Jamie Vardy, who had three goals in his last two games, was played through into the box and was one-on-one with Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka. However, Vardy’s looping strike went over the bar, the latest of many occasions in which Brendan Rodgers‘ side failed to execute properly in front of goal.

Rafa’s Newcastle plea: With investment, we can improve like Napoli

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Hearing Rafa Benitez spell it out, it’s difficult to imagine why anyone wouldn’t take a swing on making big investments in the transfer market.

[ PL PREVIEW: Leicester v. Newcastle ]

It’s also certainly not as cut-and-dried as the Newcastle United manager makes it sound — players can, after all, flop and devalue — and it’s worth noting that most skeptics would note that Magpies owner Mike Ashley is incredibly stubborn with the club’s money.

Yet as Benitez and Newcastle discuss a new contract and record signing Miguel Almiron reinvigorates the Magpies attack, it’s worth noting that Rafa is recalling one of the great success stories this decade, and his involvement with it. From Sky Sports:

“When I signed for Napoli the president Aurelio De Laurentiis had ambition and he wanted to improve. He wanted to go to Europe and be there every year. So we signed Reina, Higuain, Albiol, Mertens, Callejon with money from Cavani. Selling Cavani got us around £60m.

“The year after we signed Koulibaly and Jorginho. Just by selling Higuain and Jorginho, the club got 140m so it was a massive profit. And they still have Koulibaly and all these players and you know the prices of these players.

“They have guaranteed in the last four years to be in Europe – either in the Europa League or the Champions League. That means when you have the potential you can do that. You can see the potential here. That is what you are looking for.”

Like Newcastle, Napoli had a fall from grace. Unlike Newcastle, the Neapolitan side has reclaimed its status in Europe.

Rafa’s convinced the fans, but has he convinced Ashley? Because there’s a lot more money in European competition than there’s dough in a failing relegation scrap under a lesser manager.

Premier League Preview: Leicester City v. Newcastle United

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  • Leicester won 2-0 at Newcastle
  • Foxes have won 6 of last 7 v. Magpies
  • Newcastle leads all-time 51W-27D-44L

Two former Liverpool bosses meet with very different aims when Newcastle United visits Leicester City on Friday (Watch live at 3 p.m. on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Brendan Rodgers and Leicester City are targeting seventh place and a place in the Europa League, while Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez wants another win or two to clinch Premier League safety.

The Foxes lost to Watford in their first match under Rodgers, but have beaten four bottom half sides to put together a fine winning streak and climb into seventh; Leicester is level on points with Wolves and a point ahead of Watford, though both have played one fewer match.

What they’re saying

Leicester City’s Rodgers“I expect a very, very tough game. Rafa is a top class manager who organizes his teams exceptionally well. They play in a 5-4-1 structure when they haven’t got the ball. They don’t give away many goals, so we know we will have to have that patience, but we have a lot of exciting players in the team who can be good in one-on-one situations, and who can manipulate the ball.”

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez: “Now we have five games and we have to think of every one like a final, as we have said many times. We must approach every game with confidence, calm, and the belief that we can do it. Leicester are a very good team. They are playing with more confidence now, and it will be tough for us, for sure.”

Prediction

Leicester’s attackers may be a bit too much for Rafa’s imposing defense, especially with Florian Lejeune and Sean Longstaff out of the lineup, but the chemistry between Miguel Almiron, Ayoze Perez, and Salomon Rondon has given the Magpies another dimension. 1-1.

Benitez seethes, says Newcastle still in relegation race

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Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez is taking no comfort from a dominant display in a 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday, saying the club is still in the relegation picture.

[ RECAP: Newcastle 0-1 Palace ]

Benitez has been saying the club needs one more win to seal safety, but instead it was Palace who basically claimed a spot in the Premier League’s next season when DeAndre Yedlin took down Wilfried Zaha in the box and Luka Milivojevic converted the Eagles’ lone shot on goal of the match.

“The next game is another final, we need to get three points and that is it,” Benitez said. “I said so that so many months ago, we need to keep going.”

The Magpies have a seven-point lead on Cardiff City, who holds the last relegation spot on the table, and both Southampton and Brighton are behind Newcastle by two points.

And Benitez is steaming, because 10 points ahead of the pack with five matches left would all but seal their spot in the top flight. From The Chronicle:

“My frustration today is we lost a massive game. We did everything for winning the game for 80 minutes but we didn’t do it. We need to manage the game, keep a balance. We need to be aware they are dangerous on counter attack.”

The Magpies are off to in-form Leicester City before hosting Saints, and traveling to Brighton and Hove Albion. Then it’s Liverpool at home before a trip to Fulham on the final day.

Premier League preview: Newcastle v. Crystal Palace

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  • Newcastle has lost just 1 of its last 16 matches v. Palace
  • Crystal Palace has 19 away goals in 2019, a joint-league high
  • Newcastle has a five-game home PL winning streak

Amid speculation about Rafa Benitez‘s uncertain future, Newcastle takes to the field as the Magpies host Crystal Palace at St. James Park on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

With his contract set to run out this summer, Benitez claimed the “ball is in Newcastle United’s court” when it comes to an extension. While he looks to finish out the season strong amid the speculation, Newcastle takes on Crystal Palace to begin one of the more lenient run-ins among the Premier League, at least on paper. The Magpies have remaining games against Fulham, Brighton, Southampton, and Crystal Palace remaining to go along with top-half matchups with Liverpool and Leicester City.

[ MORE: Watch Newcastle v. Crystal Palace live on NBCSports.com ]

Newcastle also has good news on the injury front, with Isaac Hayden, Mohamed Diame and DeAndre Yedlin all either returning this weekend or close to doing so in the near future. In addition, Jonjo Shelvey and Ki Sung-Yeung have both recently returned from long injury troubles and could see more time on the field in the coming matches.

For Crystal Palace, the magical 40-point threshhold is just four points away, and while they’re already all but safe with an eight-point cushion with six matches to go, matches such as this provide an opportunity amid a bit tougher of a late-season fixture list. The Eagles still have matches against Manchester City, Arsenal, and Everton remaining before meeting Cardiff City and Bournemouth to close out the campaign.

Roy Hodgson will have Andros Townsend to call upon, with the England international returning from a hand injury as a substitute midweek. Other than a long-term knee injury to Mamadou Sakho, there are no other certain injury concerns for Crystal Palace ahead of the road visit to St. James.

What they’re saying

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez on his contract situation: “The only club I’m talking about my future [with] now is Newcastle United, and I’m waiting for an answer. Why? Because we have been in contact and I’m waiting for an answer.”

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson on their table position:  “We haven’t actually gone out saying we’re safe. We can’t stop the general opinion that’s out there – we realize we need more points and we also realize we’ll be coming across some very good teams that’ll make it hard for us to get those points.”

Prediction

While there’s not a ton on the line for these two teams, these two seasoned managers know how to motivate a squad with little to play for. Benitez in particular will have his job – not on the line, but plenty to prove. The home crowd should boost Newcastle, and with a healthy squad, the Magpies will win a fun one 3-2.