Newcastle v Brighton preview: Ciaran Clark sidelined as Magpies search for win
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Last Updated: 20/10/18 6:51pm
Ciaran Clark will be sidelined for Newcastle as they look to improve on their worst ever start to a top-flight season when they welcome Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday.
The defender has been undergoing treatment since withdrawing from the Republic of Ireland squad for Tuesday night's Nations League defeat to Wales with thigh injury suffered in training, but will not make the weekend's game.
Rafa Benitez's side are without a win in their opening nine games of the season, but the Spaniard is confident they are close to turning a corner.
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He said: "The first win is almost the most difficult and as soon as we win the first game, we will start having more confidence and it will be easier for us."
Brighton are winless in their last 17 Premier League away games (D5 L12) and manager Chris Hughton wants his side to improve on the road - starting on Saturday.
"Looking at it logically, they'll be the favourites as they're the home side and we've both faced a similar calibre of opposition so far this term," he said.
"I think it will be a bit of a relief for them that they're not playing one of the league's so-called bigger sides in the top six. We've also had some very tough games, and this is another one for us - we know it's a challenge to do better away from home for ourselves."
Newcastle defender Paul Dummett (hamstring) is available, but while Salomon Rondon (also thigh) has returned to light training, he is still out, as is Florian Lejeune (knee).
Brighton will be without midfielder Davy Propper, who suffered an ankle injury in the victory over West Ham before the international break and is expected to be sidelined for several weeks.
But Pascal Gross could be involved after returning to training following an ankle problem of his own, while fellow Dale Stephens (hamstring) and Gaetan Bong (knee) face late fitness tests.
This is just the third Premier League meeting between Newcastle and Brighton - Brighton won 1-0 at the Amex, while the sides shared a 0-0 draw at St. James' Park in December 2017.
Newcastle have won two of their last 10 matches against Brighton in all competitions (D3 L5), with both victories coming during the 2016-17 Championship season.
Last season, Newcastle had 28 shots against Brighton in the Premier League without scoring - only Huddersfield against Swansea (37) had more without scoring against an opponent during 2017-18.
With just two points from eight games, Newcastle have made their worst ever start to a top-flight season (adjusted to 3 points for a win). They've only failed to win any of their first nine top-flight games once before, back in 1898-99 when they were winless in their opening 10.
Brighton are winless in their last 17 Premier League away games (D5 L12), scoring just seven goals in that run. It's their longest run without a win on the road in league competition since September 1997 (18 games).
Brighton manager Chris Hughton is yet to win at St. James' Park as an away manager against his former club in four attempts (P4 W0 D1 L3), with all matches coming in league competition.
Only Eden Hazard (7) has scored more Premier League goals this season than Brighton's Glenn Murray (5). However, just one of Murray's strikes has come away from home.
I watched Newcastle three weeks ago against Leicester and they had one shot on target from 60 yards. Then they go to Manchester United and they should have got something from the game. They'll be kicking themselves that they didn't get a positive result at Old Trafford. That defeat will have hurt but they can take positives from what was, on the whole, a good performance.
Brighton are not the best side away from the Amex Stadium. If I'm being totally honest they are very, very poor on the road. For that reason I'm going to side with Newcastle in what will be like a cup final for them. It's a must win for Rafael Benitez and his side.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-0 (5/1 with Sky Bet)