Newcastle v Huddersfield preview: Islam Slimani in line for Magpies debut
Last Updated: 30/03/18 3:56pm
Islam Slimani is in line to make his Newcastle debut as they take on fellow Premier League strugglers Huddersfield on Saturday.
The Algeria international arrived from Leicester on loan in January with a thigh problem and is yet to pull on a black and white shirt, but he could make the squad for the first time this weekend.
Rafa Benitez has dismissed suggestions that victory over Huddersfield would end Newcastle's Premier League relegation fears with a victory taking them onto 35 points.
"No, no chance, I don't agree. If we win tomorrow, it will be a big step forward, but I still say 40 points is the figure," he said. "It may be less, but we have to play, we have to win and, after that, still we have to keep fighting because we still have a lot of games to play.
"When you are getting closer to the end, these games are even more important. We know our position and for us, it's a massive game. It's a massive game also for them. Depending on this game, things could be a little bit easier, but still we will have to keep going to the end."
Huddersfield boss David Wagner insists his future does not hinge on the club's Premier League survival bid, despite being linked with several jobs, including a return to the Bundesliga.
"What we've spoken about in detail, I think this is a conversation between him [chairman Dean Hoyle] and me," Wagner said. "This is more or less routine. We had this conversation this time last year and it doesn't really make sense because it's all about our Premier League status.
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"Last season it was all about the play-offs and this is why we agreed - let's do the job and then go into detail in the conversation. In the end we have to be sure and focused - bring us to Premier League season II. This is the only focus."
Elsewhere for Newcastle, Matt Ritchie is also fit after withdrawing from the Scotland squad with a groin problem, and full-back Jesus Gamez has recovered from a long-term ankle injury.
However, Joselu will remain sidelined by an ankle injury
Huddersfield pair Aaron Mooy and Philip Billing are expected to be in contention after both withdrawn early from international duty this week, but have returned to training and hope to feature.
Terence Kongolo (hip) could also return to the squad after injury, but Danny Williams (fractured fibula) and Michael Hefele (knee) are still out.
Newcastle were beaten 2-1 by Huddersfield at St. James' Park in last season's Championship clash, with this their first top-flight meeting there since a goalless draw in August 1971.
The Terriers last completed a league double over Newcastle in the 1953-54 campaign when both clubs were also in the top-flight.
Newcastle haven't won three consecutive matches at St. James' Park in the Premier League since a run of four under Alan Pardew in December 2014.
Huddersfield have failed to score in any of their last three Premier League games. It's their third run of three consecutive goalless league games this season, but they're yet to go four without a goal in the Premier League.
The Terriers have only scored in four of their 15 away Premier League games this season, but they haven't lost any of those games in which they've found the net (W3 D1).
12% of Huddersfield's goals scored this season have been opposition own goals, the highest share in the Premier League (3/25).
Meanwhile, only Brighton (5) have scored more own goals than Newcastle so far this season (3).
After failing to score with his first 43 shots in the Premier League this season, Matt Ritchie has found the net with two of his last four in the competition.
Dwight Gayle is Newcastle's top scorer in the Premier League this season with five goals - the lowest scoring outright top scorer at a single club so far in 2017-18.
I think Huddersfield melted last time out against Crystal Palace - they bottled it. They were poor, they didn't have a shot, they didn't really have a go at Crystal Palace and it got the better of them in a big football match. I think Newcastle at home will have too much for Huddersfield.
They never, ever looked like threatening to score against Crystal Palace and I watched them against Swansea the week before that and they played against 10 men for 79 minutes - more than that with injury time - and they never really looked like scoring there. There was one great save the goalkeeper made and Tom Ince hit the outside of the post. David Wagner should have changed it quicker and put the big centre-forward on.
I worry for Huddersfield now, this game is a big game and I see Newcastle winning.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0 (6/1 with Sky Bet)