Newcastle United will be hoping for back-to-back victories for the first time this season when they travel to a buoyant Swansea City.
The Magpies come into this game on the back of a thumping 3-0 victory over struggling West Ham and Rafa Benitez’s men will be hoping to build on that with a positive result come 6pm on Sunday.
Swansea City’s season thus far has been a bit of a mixed bag, starting the season off with a 0-0 draw away to Southampton, only to be thumped 0-4 at the hands of Manchester United in the second game week. They then travelled to League One side MK Dons in the League Cup and won convincingly, 1-4.
However, like Newcastle, Swansea picked up their first three points of the season last time out by beating another struggling outfit, Crystal Palace, 2-0.
The Swans are unbeaten in 4 against the Magpies at the Liberty Stadium and expect goals on Sunday as 5 out of the last 6 fixtures between the opponents have featured 3+ goals.
This week, I asked Guto (a lifelong Swansea City fan) a few questions regarding his side and what to expect on Sunday evening.
1. Which of your player(s) is most likely to stand out and make the difference on Sunday?
Newcastle missed out on Tammy Abraham in the summer and I hope he shows what they could have had. He’s been starved of service in his first three games but has still managed to excite fans. He is tall but he’s also mobile and learning quickly how to use his strength. His movement is intelligent and he has plenty of skill.
If he could get regular quality service, he would score bags of goals in this league, just like he did for Bristol City. He’s off the mark following his well-taken goal against Palace and is without a doubt the most likely Swansea player to score.
The second player to keep an eye on has not played for the Swans yet but is bound to be under the spotlight. Renato Sanches, one of the most exciting youngsters in world football, could make his debut and it will be interesting to see how we use him and what kind of impact he will have.
2. Looking from the outside in, Swansea appeared to have had a really successful transfer window. Which new addition are you most excited about?
Renato Sanches joining Swansea on loan was one of the shocks of the summer. A club our size has no right to have a player who won the Golden Boy Award less than 12 months ago.
Expectations are sky-high and it may be worth cooling them slightly because he may be asked to play out of position here and will not be surrounded with brilliant players like at Portugal and Bayern, but it is very tough not to get excited when a player like Sanches joins.
3. Swansea bought Sanches and Bony on deadline day. Do you think they will start vs NUFC?
I doubt either will start. Bony has not played much of a part in Man City’s pre-season and has been out of form for two years so will need to get up to speed both physically and mentally and will therefore probably start on the bench and come on for Abraham in the second half.
As for Sanches, he is yet to join the squad because of international duty and may be eased in slowly but if he is fit, surely we’re going to see him at some point against Newcastle.
4. How big a miss will Llorente and Sigurdsson be? Both of them were crucial for you last season, scoring a combined 24 goals and notching up 14 assists.
They were our two best players last season and between them, they carried us for much of the campaign so of course they are going to be difficult to replace. Sigurdsson, in particular, leaves a huge gap in the side, both metaphorically and literally because in the first three games of the season there has been a gaping hole where he once played.
The side has shown an alarming lack of creativity since his departure and, at times, it has felt like we are playing with 10 men. Our entire attacking strategy revolved around Sigurdsson last season so he was always going to be tough to replace.
5. How do you rate Newcastle’s business this summer?
I’ll be honest, I think Benitez has his work cut out after this summer. I kept expecting Newcastle to make significant moves but Mike Ashley clearly didn’t want to spend too much. None of the incoming players look like they are going to make a huge difference to the side.
Atsu was decent last season, Murphy is a promising talent and Lejeune seems to have done well in Spain. But Joselu is not going to score many goals and Manquillo has serious defensive weaknesses.
It would not have taken too many good purchases to turn Newcastle into a side capable of staying up comfortably but it still looks more or less like a good Championship squad, rather than a decent Premier League squad.
6. Which Newcastle player(s) worries you going into Sunday’s fixture?
I have always weirdly liked Ayoze Perez. He’s a player who always looks very comfortable on the ball, has good movement and is technically great. He’s not the type of player you’re going to devote all your attention towards, but he’s a player I’ve always enjoyed watching, but maybe should score a few more goals.
In the absence of Mitrovic, I take it Dwight Gayle’s finally going to get the chance in the Premier League which nobody seems eager to give him. All he needs is one good pass and he’s in on goal and scoring.
7. You guys were in a relegation battle last season. How do you see the Swansea and Newcastle doing this season?
I don’t think the Swans will set the world alight this summer and we will probably still be involved in the relegation battle, but I don’t think it will be anywhere near as stressful as last season. The first half of last season was wasted thanks to an awful transfer window and giving Francesco Guidolin and the utterly useless Bob Bradley the manager’s job.
It took a monumental rescue act to save us last season, and without Sigurdsson, we can’t allow ourselves to get into that kind of hole again. I’m reasonably confident of staying up, but at the same time there are probably around 10 clubs in this league who could go down if circumstances work against them, and Newcastle are one of those sides too.
It doesn’t take much to provoke a crisis at St James’s Park, and that’s why I think Newcastle could struggle this season.
8. Jonjo Shelvey, an ex Swansea player, has just came back from his suspension. If he starts on Sunday, what will be his reception from the Swansea fans?
He can expect a rough reception; there’s very little affection towards Shelvey in these parts. He is the most frustrating player I have ever seen at this club. He was capable of moments of brilliance but always let himself down and in the end we figured out it was never going to be worth it.
He rarely missed an opportunity to prove that he is a complete liability and his stupid red card in the opening day defeat to Spurs typified how unreliable he really is. I was delighted when we sold him.
He could score a 25 yard stunner against us on Sunday but at the same time he could easily get led astray by his emotions, have a stinker and get another red card. Whatever happens, Swansea fans will have no regrets about selling him and neither will Newcastle fans when you finally run out of patience with him.
9.What is your predicted Swansea starting XI?
Very difficult considering injuries and new additions to the squad but I’d expect us to make one alteration to the team which beat Crystal Palace, which we set up with a 5-3-2 formation.
Naughton, Fernandez, van der Hoorn, Mawson, Olsson
Clucas, Mesa, Carroll
10. Finally, a score prediction?
Both sides are going into the game on the back of uplifting wins so both should be confident, but at the same time, these teams are defensively pretty strong and have struggled to score against teams which have good defences. I think one goal will win it and we have a very good recent record against Newcastle so I will predict:
Swansea 1-0 Newcastle
Tammy Abraham to score the only goal.
Thank you very much to Guto for answering our questions! Be sure to drop him a follow over on Twitter: @GutoLlewelyn