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Newcastle – Tame Wolves Of Complacency & Toon Will March On



Newcastle United marched on through to an EFL Quarter-Final against Hull City with a resounding 6-0 win over Preston at St. James’ Park  on Tuesday night yet The Magpies must be on their guard against overconfidence and complacency when they travel to Sir Tom Finney Way to face the Lilywhites in The Championship on Saturday.

Preston manager Simon Grayson, clearly prioritising the possibility of Championship points more than passage through to the Cup – made no fewer than nine changes from his in-form team that had beaten Norwich at Carrow Road and Magpies’ conquerors Huddersfield previously.

Everything that could have went Newcastle’s way did on Tuesday night – a weakened side was furthered weakened by an early red card for Alan Browne and The Magpies were also awarded a rare penalty – yet from start to finish Newcastle were dramatically the better side and double figures would not have flattered them.

Rafa Benitez’s black and whites possess the talent, the players, the confidence and everything they need to beat Preston again yet they must ensure they concentrate 100% and perform to the ability they possess.

Following their last 6-0 trouncing of a side – QPR back in mid-September – to cap a memorable six-game run exactly as they again did on Tuesday night, Newcastle didn’t do justice to themselves and lost 2-0 to Wolves.

Speaking about the Ipswich 3-0 game in Tuesday’s programmed, ‘Magic’ Matt Ritchie referred to that game:

“We’ve had some good results of late. Going back a couple of weeks, we had a big game here and got beaten against Wolves, so its nice to continue the run and show that we’ve obviously learned from that little bit of complacency, if that’s what it was.”

Magpies fans desperate for Newcastle to be promoted instantly back into The Premier League where the club belongs will hope lessons have been learned although everyone on Tyneside knows how easy it is to get caught up in the good-feeling coursing through the veins of the North’s Premier city during winning runs.

EFL Cup Draw Could Have Been A  Hull Of A Lot Worse

Its a feeling enhanced by what most Newcastle fans and neutrals regard as a kind Quarter Final draw away to Hull instead of Arsenal or Manchester United though Benitez was quick to recognise it as a dangerous away tie against top flight opposition:

“We have confidence, because we are doing well, but we have a lot of respect for Hull because they are a Premier League team and we will play away from home.

“So we will approach the game with hope that we can do well – but also knowing that it will be a hard game against a side from a higher league.”

Mike Phelan’s men will certainly be prioritising Premier League survival which could be in Newcastle’s favour yet with The Tigers only two rounds from Wembley, will have at least half an eye on silverware themselves.

Newcastle have recorded terrific away victories on their last two visits to the KCOM Stadium – a 3-0 win in January 2015 and 4-1 in March 2014 under Alan Pardew – and Rafa will do his utmost to steer Newcastle through.

Rafa’s Rotation Raffle vs Preston – Who Will Play?

Its back to the bread and butter of The Championship on Saturday and Rafa has the luxury of almost everyone in the squad fit and raring to go in the squad and playing well – Grant Hanley seized his chance with both hands on Tuesday – when they do come in.

Aleksandar Mitrovic has staked a great claim, not only for Rafa’s starting line-up on Saturday, yet to genuinely convince that’s he on fire having scored five goals in his last three starts for club and country.

For the second time this season and coinciding with Mitrovic’s only two full matches – he started then went off injured against Cheltenham in The EFL Cup – Newcastle United blew a team away 6-0 just like they had QPR.

Its not just his goals that are making a difference yet the aerial dominance and hold-up play that allows Newcastle’s other players to feed off him and express their talents behind him as he wins balls and occupies defenders.

Teammate Mo Diame, who scored his first and second goals in a Newcastle shirt since a stuttering start to his Magpies career after joining in the summer was quick to recognise this important aspect of the striker’s game:

“He did a great job Mitro. It is always easy for the player behind when they hold the ball up.”

It was no coincidence Diame scored his first goals – diamond strikes at that – and should have scored a hat-trick after Mitrovic laid another first half chance on a plate yet the service was well appreciated by his teammate.

Newcastle’s leading goalscorer and no. 9 Dwight Gayle is yet to start a game alongside Mitrovic yet the Serbian’s hold-up play was the key to the last-gasp turnaround from 3-2 down to 4-3 winners against Norwich, a win which transformed Newcastle into the real deal from which they have not looked back.

Until Mitrovic came on in that one and a feature of Newcastle’s season so far is that great crosses rain into the opposition’s penalty area yet there is no real aerial threat or header of the ball to put them away.

Certainly against Norwich in the first half, Newcastle could have been out of sight if Mitrovic was playing as Paul Dummett fired dangerous crosses into the area that Gayle struggled to get on the end of.

Benitez favours a no. 10 behind a striker like Diame but with JonJo Shelvey pushed further forward with Isaac Hayden or Cheick Tiote holding the midfield deeper, Mitrovic and Gayle could play together up front.

Preston have a point to prove on Saturday and Newcastle must be on their mettle for win no. 7.

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Juventus Fans Arrested After Clash with Police



Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash between Juventus and Ajax has already been marred by violence and controversy, before the teams even took to the pitch.

According to Ansa, citing a report from De Telegraaf, dozens of fans were reportedly arrested in Amsterdam in the hours leading up to the game.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (h/t Football Italia) took to Facebook live video to state that “around 120” fans had been arrested.

Per the report from De Telegraaf, fans near the Johan Cruyff Arena were “in possession of knives, clubs, pepper spray and flares.” Also, dozens of Ajax supporters were reported to have clashed with riot police in separate incidents outside the stadium and were eventually dispersed with the use of tear gas and water cannons.

The Mirror posted the following images on their Twitter page:

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Man City forward Raheem Sterling Looking to Combat Racism on the Pitch



Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, who spoke out last month after being subjected to taunts during England’s game in Montenegro, is looking to take his fight against racism to the pitch, saying he would rather stay on the field than let racism force him to walk off of the pitch during a match.

Sterling’s manager Pep Guardiola, stated that he would support players walking off in protest if it happened again, in a strong statement that racism is simply not acceptable.

“I think everyone are entitled to their own opinions. My mum has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and I am,” Sterling said, according to the Manchester Evening News.

“I wouldn’t personally agree with [walking off], to win the game would hurt them even more they’re only trying to get you down. If you walk off they win, to score or win would be better.

“Everyone’s different. Everyone has their own opinion, how they deal with things emotionally and you have to support everyone.”

Sterling opened up about the racism he has faced in his life, discussing when he first expereinced racism when he moved from North London up to the north-west back in 2010.

“I don’t think trying to make a difference or making a difference, it’s about speaking what you experience. Some people might shy away from it, if more players speak up that might be better.

“It’s offensive but growing up my mum always told me I’m a wonderful black child and I know this. When I hear it, it’s nothing new. I’m happy with it. I’m confident, I’m black and I’m proud. Some people can’t take it but my mum has always told me to love who I am.

“The first time I experienced racism is when I went up north to Liverpool – in London in schools and on a day-to-day basis you’re surrounded by a diverse community. Only a few occasions growing up in the academy in Liverpool, and then mainly in the last couple of years of being a professional.”



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Birmingham City Fan Jailed for 14 Days for Punching Aston Villa Player



27-year old Paul Mitchel, a Birmingham City fan has been jailed for 14 days after he plead guilt to assaulting Aston Villa midfielder Jack Graelish during the derby on Sunday.

Mitchell rushed the pitch and took a swing at Graelish when the player’s back was turned at Birmingham City’s St. Andrew’s stadium during the Championship match on Sunday.

Mitchell admitted to invading the pitch and has been officially banned from attending any football match in the U.K. for up to 10 years, and was also ordered to pay £350 in total fines.

Graelish made a statement in which he described how he was “shocked and scared” by the attack.

“I cannot help but feel how lucky I was in this incident,” he said (h/t ESPN). “It could have been so much worse had the supporter had some sort of weapon.”

“He cannot explain what came over himself yesterday morning,” Mitchell’s lawyer, Vaughn Whistance, said on Monday.

“His initial foolish intention was to go onto the pitch to whip up the crowd. He is certainly remorseful today. He is a man with a partner, they have a 2-year-old together and they’re expecting their second child.”

“This weekend a line has been crossed in terms of fan behaviour,” said a spokesperson for the FA.

“On Sunday we saw two separate incidents, at Birmingham City and Arsenal, of individuals entering the field of play and assaulting players.

“Not only is it an offence to enter the pitch, which could result in a club ban and criminal charges for the individual, but it also puts the safety of the players at risk.

“This is entirely unacceptable and we strongly condemn both incidents.

“We will be working with the clubs, the leagues and the police to discuss what collectively needs to be done to protect players and officials on the pitch.

“In addition, we have written to both Birmingham City and Arsenal to seek their observations to examine the security measures they had in place.”

Birmingham City apologized to Grealish and Aston Villa and banned Mitchell for life.

“Birmingham City Football Club would like to apologise to Jack Grealish and Aston Villa Football Club for an incident in Sunday afternoon’s derby match,” a club statement said.

“We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St. Andrew’s for life. The club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.

“The club will be working with the relevant authorities to investigate all the circumstances and we will be reviewing our stadium safety procedures.

“What happened has no place in football or society. Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this — there are no excuses.

“Again, we apologise to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club.”


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