Newcastle United vs Cardiff City Preview: Benitez expecting a compact Cardiff ahead of vital relegation clash
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Newcastle United vs Cardiff City Preview: Benitez expecting a compact Cardiff ahead of vital relegation clash

A relegation six pointer awaits in Newcastle.

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Rafa Benitez is expecting a defensive minded Cardiff City side, as he seeks an important win with the sides Premier League meeting at St James Park on Saturday.

The clash is a vital six-pointer in the relegation battle. A win could see Newcastle United leapfrog Southampton and Burnley into fifteenth position, providing other results go their way.

However, Newcastle will have to dig deep. The Magpies have only won twice at home this season and were outplayed in the reverse fixture in a 0-0 draw with the Bluebirds.

A game crucial for survival

Saturday's clash at St James Park is an opportunity for one of the two sides (17th and 18th in the table), to end the day outside the relegation zone and land the other in the drop zone.

The reverse fixture was a laboured performance by Newcastle as they drew 0-0 at the Cardiff City Stadium, in a game where the visitors were outplayed for the majority of the contest.  

Newcastle were reduced to ten men as Issac Hayden was sent off in the 66th minute, for a challenge on Josh Murphy.

Cardiff played on the front foot, but failed to capitalise on their man advantage as Kenneth Zohore missed multiple chances. 

Despite being second best throughout the game Newcastle could have snatched the win late on from the spot, only for Kenedy to see his tame kick saved by Neil Etheridge.

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Team News

Newcastle's 4-2 win in their FA Cup replay with Blackburn Rovers has only intensified Benitez's selection headache, as Ciaran ClarkJamaal Lascelles, Fabian Schar and Hayden all had to be substituted through injury. 

Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett are confirmed absentees.

Cardiff's recent signing Oumar Niasse is expected to make his debut following his loan move from Everton. However, captain Sean Morrison is a doubt after going to hospital for a so far unnamed procedure.

Key battles

Cardiff will look to exploit their physicality, particularly from set pieces. Morrison may be out, but fellow centre-backs Sol Bamba and Bruno Ecuele Manga have both scored this season. They may fancy their chances, especially with Newcastle's injuries at the back.

Newcastle will look to their more creative players, as they look to pick apart the well-organised Bluebirds. With this in mind, Shelvey's creativity will be missed.

Ayoze Perez and Matt Ritchie will most likely be relied upon in unlocking Cardiff's defence.  

Managers thoughts

Benitez expects Cardiff to try and unsettle the Toon faithful, by trying to frustrate Newcastle with a defensive-minded game plan.

Benitez told the Chronicle: "From the beginning, they will try to stop our team trying to do what they want to do, trying to make the fans a little bit nervous and a little bit anxious."

He continued: "It's an important game, but we still have many games to play. Obviously we will go for the three points, after that what will happen? We still have to keep winning games."

Neil Warnock told Cardiff City: "It's a big game, they're all big games. I've had some great battles with Newcastle over the years. Their fans stick with them no matter what happens and what league they're in."

He continued: "We're always going to be up against it, but we've got to try and give them a good game. We'll take a good following - I know they'll be up in the loft there but they'll make themselves heard."

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