Newcastle United against Burnley isn't the most eye-catching contest on the midweek Premier League fixture list but it is certainly one of the most important. With Rafa Benitez' men struggling without a win in seven home matches and lingering just above the drop zone, three points will be the ambition against a Burnley side who are winless in eight games home and away.
Ability in midfield for the hosts
However, both managers have added new flair players to their ranks, with Kenedy joining Benitez at Newcastle and Aaron Lennon snapped up by Sean Dyche. Kenedy is suffering with a slight knock but the duo are both expected to feature at some point against each other.
Kenedy has a point to prove after being sent home by Chelsea during their pre-season tour last Summer and St James' Park provides a strong foundation for the Brazilian to let his feet do the talking. If he does play, Jack Cork will have to keep a close eye on his opponent who likes to pick up pockets of space between the lines.
Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie provide width and a real threat to two Burnley full-backs out of form. Phil Bardsley and Charlie Taylor have been deputising for the injured pair of Matt Lowton and Stephen Ward but struggled to have the same impact in a back four that looks depleted without their regular members. Atsu will drive into the box and ask questions of a flat-footed Burnley defence, whilst Ritchie has more assists than any other Newcastle player with five to his name.
The Clarets could also be without James Tarkowski who is a major doubt. The central defender missed three games without suspension earlier in the season and Burnley's defence fell to pieces without him. Kevin Long deputised but struggled in particular against the movement of Harry Kane and could face the same problem in the form of the speedy Dwight Gayle.
Lennon and Gudmundsson provide genuine width in a more balanced Burnley side
Burnley have more injuries further up the pitch, although some absentees could prove a greater miss than others. Steven Defour has made more interceptions than nearly everyone in the league this season and his eye to spot an opposing pass will be sorely missed against the pinpoint accuracy of Jonjo Shelvey.
The aerial threats of Jon Walters and Chris Wood will also be absent but a different option could produce more of an impact against this Newcastle defence. Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark are strong in the air but won't enjoy the movement and high press created by Ashley Barnes. Sean Dyche could be tempted to add Sam Vokes or Scott Arfield to the attack with the absence of Defour in midfield providing an opportunity for someone else to impress.
New signing Lennon will also be looking to just that. He may not boast the same speed as he did in his prime but he will still pose a crossing and passing threat that Newcastle will not enjoy. Benitez' full-backs, Paul Dummett and DeAndre Yedlin, have suffered for form like Burnley's deputies this season and could face a tough evening against the rejuvenated Lennon and in-form Johann Berg Gudmundsson. The latter has five assists this season and has been the one player to keep up his high standards whilst the Clarets have experienced a dip in form.