Norwich City-Newcastle United Preview
There has been nothing but Premier League misery in the North East, and there's little reason to believe it won't continue for last-place Newcastle United on Sunday when they host Norwich City at St James' Park.
Both the Magpies and their archrivals Sunderland enter this weekend's matches as the only winless teams in the top flight, with both sporting 0-3-5 records. Newcastle occupy the foot of the table since their minus-11 goal difference is one worse than the Black Cats.
Usually the international break is a chance to regroup and refocus, but it's just further added to Newcastle's woes. The Magpies lost starting goalkeeper Tim Krul for the season after he suffered a torn ACL last week in the Netherlands' win over Kazakhstan - the last flicker of light in the Dutch's eventual flameout that marked their disastrous European qualifying campaign.
"Tim is a big part of us - he's a big player, a leader in the dressing room and his goal was to establish himself in the Dutch side going forward," manager Steve McClaren told Newcastle's official website. "It's going to be a very difficult time for him but Tim is strong, single-minded and he will come back from this injury."
Krul's absence, coupled with the pre-existing ankle injury to second-choice keeper Karl Darlow that will sideline him for at least a month more, leaves Rob Elliot and Freddie Woodman as McClaren's options between the sticks. Elliot is yet to see action this season, and the 18-year-old Woodman was recalled from a half-season loan with League Two side Crawley Town.
Elliot has made 15 Premier League appearances for the Magpies since signing in 2011 and went 1-1-1 in three starts last season. McClaren, though, has no qualms about giving the Ireland international his season debut.
"I've been impressed by Rob from Day 1 when I came to the club," the manager added. "He's very vocal in the dressing room, is a senior player with good experience and is not afraid to say things. ... This situation gives Rob an opportunity to show what he can do."
Newcastle are off to their longest winless start ever in the Premier League, going without a victory through eight matches after winning their eighth in both 1999 and last season, though a win over the Canaries would better their four-point total through nine contests in '99 by two.
Norwich City (2-3-3) are 13th in the table on nine points but have had the international break to rue a lost opportunity following their 2-1 defeat at home to upstart Leicester City on Oct. 3. That ended a three-match unbeaten run for the Canaries, who have yet to solve their shortcomings on defence. They've failed to record a clean sheet in league play, and their 14 goals shipped are fifth-worst in the top flight.
"These games are difficult to get to the bottom of because Leicester didn't control the game at any point, but we know what their strengths are," manager Alex Neil toward Norwich City TV. "Things were a bit predictable and too slow. I felt sorry for the players, they didn't do themselves justice in that first 45 minutes."
While Newcastle have been hesitant shooters - their 67 are the fewest in the Premier League - Norwich have failed to clear their lines consistently. The Canaries have conceded a league-worst 7.3 shots in the danger zone per match and a whopping 77 percent of opponents' shots have come from inside the penalty area.
Both teams have struggled mightily defending in the second half this season, with the Magpies yielding a league-worst 11 in the last 45 minutes and the Canaries tied for second-worst with nine. Norwich, though, have received three goals from their reserves, the second-best mark in the top flight to Everton's five.
Newcastle are 5-1-0 at St James' Park in the Premier League versus Norwich, including a 2-1 victory in the last meeting in the 2013-14 season.