Tenacious Terriers primed to halt Toon Army’s march
Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports 1, 5.30pm Saturday
If bookmakers are to be believed then the race for automatic promotion from the Sky Bet Championship is a foregone conclusion.
Leaders Newcastle are 1-20 for a top-two finish while nearest challengers Brighton, who the Magpies fought off on the south coast on Tuesday night, are 1-4 to join them in the Premier League.
Victory at the Amex Stadium was the perfect start to a crucial period in Newcastle’s season in which they face four of the six sides immediately below them. The Toon Army march onwards to Huddersfield this evening but they may meet their match
in David Wagner’s tenacious Terriers.
Third-placed Huddersfield are seen by the layers as the only side with any hope of gatecrashing the automatic promotion places and start the day only six points adrift of second-placed Brighton with a game in hand.
German supremo Wagner has instilled an unwavering intensity into his side and while the animated boss will have to watch on from the stands as he serves the second match of a two-game ban for his altercation with Leeds boss Garry Monk, it is unlikely to be to the detriment of his players.
Wagner rested the bulk of his first-team squad for Wednesday’s 5-1 FA Cup defeat at Manchester City but they are likely to return in pursuit of a seventh home win in eight league outings.
In their last three games at the John Smith’s Stadium the Terriers have beaten promotion rivals Brighton (3-0), Leeds (2-1) and Reading (1-0) and at 2-1 they look a fine price to add Newcastle to that select list.
Leaders Newcastle, who are unbeaten in the league since January 2, have demonstrated on numerous occasions this season that they can gain three points even when they aren’t at their best.
However, with doubts still remaining over the fitness of 20-goal striker Dwight Gayle, they may need to produce one of their best performances of the season to beat the red-hot Terriers on their own patch.
1pt 2-1 general
David Wagner is likely to ring the changes following the midweek cup defeat at Manchester City. Jonathan Hogg (groin) could feature after returning at the Etihad, while Sean Scannell (ankle) has returned to training.
Isaac Hayden (ankle) and Rolando Aarons (knee) are out but Rafa Benitez has refused to rule out Dwight Gayle (hamstring).
Huddersfield have won 11 of their last 14 Sky Bet Championship matches