Bournemouth-Newcastle United Preview
Following another frustrating showing from earlier this week, Newcastle United are wondering when their fortunes will improve enough to break free of the relegation zone.
Bournemouth, meanwhile, have a chance to win back-to-back Premier League matches for the first time in 2 1/2 months.
Both seek those accomplishments Saturday at St. James' Park, where Newcastle try to do the double over the Cherries.
Sunderland, Norwich City and Newcastle (6-6-15) each have 24 points to occupy 17th through 19th in the table, and only one of these three teams would remain in the top flight at this rate. While the Magpies have a match in hand over the Black Cats and Canaries, there is a crisis of confidence sweeping Tyneside.
Back following a 17-day match layoff, Newcastle lost 1-0 at Stoke City on Wednesday as Rob Elliot could only watch Xherdan Shaqiri's 25-yard shot fizz past him 10 minutes from time. The Magpies managed five total shots in their fourth defeat in five matches.
"The last 18 days, we talked a lot about what we need to do and I think we started that process (Wednesday) in terms of attitude, work-rate and becoming harder to beat," under-fire manager Steve McClaren told the club's official website. "This game's cruel and it's been cruel to us again."
Newcastle have managed three goals in their last five matches, the last a late consolation from recent acquisition Andros Townsend in a brutal 5-1 drubbing by Chelsea on Feb. 13.
"If you had seen the performance at Chelsea compared to (Wednesday) ... (it's) most definitely (an improvement)," McClaren said. "I thought there were good individual performances, a good team performance - you could see there was a determination, a work-rate for each other and a spirit there."
To the contrary, some observers felt various Magpies didn't put forth a complete effort at Stoke. Defender Daryl Janmaat also was seen chirping with the away fans while leaving the pitch.
Georginio Wijnaldum has not recorded any of his team-leading nine goals in the last five matches and didn't get a shot off against Stoke. He did assist on Ayoze Perez's goal in the 27th minute of a 1-0 victory at Bournemouth (8-8-12) on Nov. 7.
The Cherries have won three times over their last 11 league matches (3-4-4) since winning three in a row from Dec. 5-19, but Tuesday's 2-0 victory over Southampton moved the promoted side eight points clear of the drop and into 15th in the table.
"I am very pleased for everyone," manager Eddie Howe told Bournemouth's official website. "The whole team functioned and when we do play well and the whole team is performing, we are a very difficult team to beat."
Steve Cook and Benik Afobe scored for the Cherries, who ended a three-game skid over all competitions with a scoreless draw at Watford in the match prior. Bournemouth also are unbeaten in their last four road league matches (1-3-0).
"If we put in more performances like (Tuesday) we can beat anyone," said Cook, who scored his first goal since mid-September. "But we need to carry on and take this performance and result into the Newcastle United game on Saturday."