The international break presents can’t come quick enough for Nottingham Forest, who are in the midst of a poor run of form – but first, a home encounter against Champions League chasing Newcastle United, a tough match-up for Steve Cooper’s side.
Nottingham Forest find themselves on one of the worst runs of form in the Premier League. The Reds are abysmal on the road, and have dropped their standards at the City Ground seeing themselves go from the cusp of midtable to the perils of a relegation battle. With a 9-game unbeaten streak at the City Ground, Cooper will be optimistic his side can pick up points against Newcastle and claw themselves away from the royal rumble at the foot of the table.
Brennan Johnson is unlikely to feature on Friday night, an injury that could have a drastic impact on Forest’s chances of remaining in the top-flight. It will be interesting to see how Forest set up in a fixture where they are desperate for three points.
Forest aren’t the only side in need of points however. Newcastle are enjoying quite the season, breathing down the necks of the top four, but they’ve lost their footing since the New Year, winning just three of their 10 league fixtures since the World Cup came to an end. I’m sure Eddie Howe will be ecstatic with the prospect of a top-six finish, but after spending so much of this season in the top four, he will no doubt want his side to pick up three points to close the gap on Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.
WHEN & WHERE?
Where: City Ground, Nottingham.
When: Friday 17th March 2023.
Time: 20:00 BST.
Referee: Craig Pawson.
Assistants: Marc Perry, Scott Ledger.
Fourth official: Tim Robinson.
VAR: Darren England.
Assistant VAR: Derek Eaton.
Just when it looked like the injuries were easing for Nottingham Forest, they were hit with news which could derail their season. Moussa Niakhate and Cheikhou Kouyate are both finally back in training, which will add some much-needed strength to the backline and midfield – but Forest will now be without January signing Chris Wood and top scorer Brennan Johnson until at least the end of the international break. Cooper will be hoping Johnson can return before his side faces Wolves on April 1st, so his main goal threat doesn’t miss any other league fixtures.
Newcastle have a number of absentees themselves. Joelinton, who has become undroppable in Howe’s midfield is suspended for Friday night’s game, whilst the Mags will also be without January signing Anthony Gordon who has been ruled out until mid-April.
I’m really starting to worry about Nottingham Forest. Performances have dropped off a cliff in recent weeks, with Steve Cooper frequently choosing questionable tactics and personnel which see Forest struggle in most of their recent league fixtures. With a number of high-profile injuries, you could argue Cooper has been forced into switching up his side, but performances have been inexcusable for a side of this quality and need to pick up if Forest don’t want to get dragged back into the relegation zone.
Without Johnson, it’s likely Forest could replicate one of their many away performances from this campaign. Struggling to get forward, no attacking threat, a lack of creativity from midfield, this could all come into fruition on Friday night.
Newcastle are going to pile on the pressure tomorrow night, similar to how other top sides play, Newcastle will look to suffocate Forest, pressuring all of their progression and closing down passing lanes before they even appear. We’ve seen Forest capitulate under no real pressure at all, so facing a side like Newcastle could be a step to far and ultimately end their impressive home form. That being said, we’re talking about a Nottingham Forest side who contained Manchester City for the best part of 90 minutes. If they can repeat that performance then they could come out of this fixture with more points on the board.
With Johnson firmly out of the picture, a lot of pressure will be on Morgan Gibbs-White and the other Forest attackers to get forward and create chances. Looking at recent performances, someone from midfield needs to step up. I hope Cooper’s team selection will acknowledge the lack of midfield creativity and play a midfield three of Yates, Shelvey and Mangala who have the strength to retain possession but also the ability to play the ball forward and create attacking opportunities – something the midfield has struggled to do in recent weeks.
Nottingham Forest – Ryan Yates
Yes, Forest’s key player is someone who hasn’t started a game since January. If you’ve tuned into any recent Forest game, you’ll see one big difference between when Yates is off the pitch and when he’s on it. He’s not the prettiest of players, but he’s a player always willing to chase down play, win back possession and has the energy to drive his team forward. His aggression and determination has been missed in his absence, and without him Forest’s midfield is easily overrun. Forest fans should be crossing their fingers he returns to the starting line-up this weekend.
Newcastle United – Alexander Isak
Forest can’t defend, at all at the moment. Spurs and West Ham have ran riot against them in recent weeks, and they let lowest scorers in the league, Everton, put two past them on home turf. Isak has spent a large portion of this season on the sidelines with injury, but when fit you can see the threat he possesses, scoring four goals in just nine appearances this season. With Forest’s backline looking so brittle, a striker of Isak’s quality could easily capitalise on any half chance and punish Steve Cooper’s side. If the Reds aren’t careful, the Swedish international could have a field day under the flood lights.
Nottingham Forest predicted XI vs Newcastle United: Navas, Lodi, Felipe, Niakhate, Aurier, Yates, Shelvey, Mangala, Gibbs-White. Dennis, Ayew.
Newcastle United predicted XI vs Nottingham Forest: Pope, Burn, Botman, Schar, Trippier, Willock, Guimaraes, Longstaff, Saint-Maximin, Isak, Almiron.