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Why Crystal Palace visit brings a new kind of pressure for Rafa Benitez and Newcastle

Thursday 28th April 2016
After achieving results against Manchester City and Liverpool, can Newcastle handle the pressure of being favourites against fellow strugglers Crystal Palace?

When Rafael Benitez put pen to paper and became Newcastle United manager on 11th March, he was essentially given a free shot at keeping The Magpies' in the Premier League, given the belief that should it happen, the two will part ways.

Seven games on and the former Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid chief has given a new lease of life to a side seemingly destined for the drop, with five points in their last three outings, including positive draws against Manchester City and Liverpool.

Now with the visit of Crystal Palace this weekend, the pressure is firmly back on second-bottom Newcastle to take all three points from a team who, despite making the FA Cup final, have just one league win to their name since 19th December.

With two other fixtures left and time running out, The Magpies' must win on Saturday to have any chance of overhauling Norwich and Sunderland and surviving.

Much has been made of the wealth of talent current plying their trade on Tyneside, with critics scratching their heads at just how such a team could be looking at the prospect of Championship football next season. But for all their physical gifts, Newcastle United's 'stars' have shown mental fragility time and time again.

Since the arrival of Benitez, this aspect has improved, but recent losses to Norwich and Southampton still stick in the minds of fans that, for the majority, have only seen their club start to play football once the game is already gone.

Now considered favourites for Saturday's contest, it will be Newcastle who will be expected to attack from the off and take the game to a Crystal Palace side who may have one eye on Wembley.

So how should Newcastle deal with the pressure?

Benitez must ensure that his side remain confident throughout and keep their work rate high. Should an early goal not come, there is no need to panic.

Former Toon boss of four years, Palace manager Alan Pardew knows exactly what to expect at St. James' Park and he will use it to his advantage. The Londoner will send out his team to frustrate the home side and keep the 52,000 in attendance as quiet as possible.

Expect all of their play in both halves to be directed through another familiar face to Tyneside, midfielder Yohan Cabaye. If Newcastle holding men Jack Colback and Cheick Tiote can shut down the Frenchman, The Eagles will have to bypass the midfield and go long, which means much more possession for The Magpies'.

The home side will get their chances and it's imperative that they're taken. Stand-in captain Moussa Sissoko must get himself on the ball as much as possible and look up for the intriguing runs of Papiss Cisse, who may not be the most naturally gifted striker, but does has a knack for scoring important goals.

Should things go to plan, Newcastle could find themselves out of the relegation zone by five o'clock, their destiny in their own hands with six points to play for.

All they have to do is deal with the pressure.
John Howell

A graduate of Media & Cultural Studies from the University of West of England, I am a 26-year-old sports fanatic based in Bristol and an avid supporter of Newcastle United. I have written for several sites before joining It's Round and It's White and although I write primarily on the subject of football, you can catch me playing rugby on the weekends, no pun intended.

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