Newcastle United vs Wolves is make or break for Steve Bruce and his players
(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Newcastle United's home clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday evening is arguably the Magpies' biggest game of the season so far.

If they fail to beat Nuno Espirito Santo's men at St James' Park, and Fulham claim victory over London rivals Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon, they will enter the relegation zone for the first time this season.

United's goal difference is significantly worse than that of the Cottagers as well, and with Scott Parker's men showing signs of improvement in recent weeks there is every reason for Newcastle fans to be concerned as the season heads into its final stretch.

Just weeks ago, the Magpies looked to be well clear of any danger at the wrong end of the table but a run of poor results has dragged them right into relegation trouble meaning that the pressure has well and truly mounted on manager Steve Bruce.

However, club owner Mike Ashley has stuck by his policy of sticking with his manager and he believes that he can get the club away from danger come the end of the season.

Fans certainly disagree with this view and they desperately don't want to see a repeat of the 2015/16 where Steve McLaren was sacked far too late to save the club from the drop.

Newcastle simply have to claim all three points on Saturday!

Why it is crucial for the manager

Ever since stepping through the doors at St James' Park in July 2019, Steve Bruce has failed to win the loyal Newcastle United fans over. This is despite a surprising 2019/20 campaign where he managed to lead his side to a 13th place finish which surpassed all expectations at the time.

What was noticeable however was the luck that the team got in a number of matches that season.

What was lucky about it? On just one occasion, did Newcastle actually dominate the ball in a game and that was against Jose Mourinho's Tottenham Hotspur towards the end of the season. In this game, the Magpies experienced for themselves what it was like to face a team who sit back and still manage to claim victory.

However, for large parts of the season this is what Newcastle did to other teams in the division and it did work on some occasions but the opposition would often feel that they didn't do their own job to claim the points whether that be due to poor finishing or lapses in concentration at the back.

It sums it up when Southampton boss Ralph Hassenhüttl called Bruce's men out following their narrow 1-0 defeat to Newcastle in March 2020 by stating that they only managed to win due to a defensive error. Let's also bear in mind that the Saints played the majority of the game with ten men following Moussa Djenepo's red card in the first half.

It seems that this season is one where Newcastle have been found out and the results reflect that with a number of real hammering's given out to them, hence their appalling goal difference. 

There can be no excuses for this, including the fact that the vocal Toon Army can't cheer their team on in the stadium. All clubs are in the same boat this season so the quality needs to do the talking, not the fans. 

On paper, Newcastle do actually have a group of players who are more than capable of being successful in the Premier League, but the manager is unable to get the best out of them.

There are signs of improvement with the recent wins over Everton and Southampton being positive, but even those six points have failed to lift the Magpies clear of danger.

Bruce needs to get the best out of his side on a more consistent basis, starting with the game against Wolves. With some winnable matches on the horizon, the Newcastle boss needs to show what he's actually capable of and turn his team's fortunes around before it's too late. 

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Why it is crucial for the players

It is always easy to blame the manager when a team is on a bad run of form, and that is understandable given the fact that they are the ones charged with organising the team and getting to play in a way that suits the players.

The players at St James' Park are much better than the club's current league position suggests so now it's time for them to stand up and be counted.

Positive news came out of the Newcastle camp on Friday with Bruce revealing that top scorer Callum Wilson may be back from his hamstring injury sooner than expected, but in the meantime the current fit players need to step up and find ways to score goals.

Good teams never rely on just one player and the pressure now turns to Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin to create chances and score the goals. They have been the bright sparks in the side since Wilson's injury and they look to be the only real source of goals in Wilson's absence.

Elsewhere in the side, players such as Jonjo Shelvey need to up their game. Bruce seems determined to stick with the former Liverpool midfielder, but his recent performances have been poor. An in-form Shelvey can be a real asset to the Magpies with his range of passing being something that Almiron and Saint-Maximin could profit from.

At the other end of the pitch, the defenders who are actually available, which isn't a great deal in truth, need to be putting their bodies on the line for the team. The likes of Jamaal Lascelles and Paul Dummett have experienced relegation with the club before and they won't want to go through that again. Former Aston Villa centre-back Ciaran Clark is another who knows all too well about facing the drop. 

They should all know how important it is to maintain the club's Premier League status, and with a takeover still potentially going ahead relegation could be costly for that as well.

Newcastle's defence has been leaky all season and they need to tighten up going into the final stretch of the campaign. The whole team need to be better.

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