Few would have been surprised to see Sam Allardyce suffer defeat in his first game in charge of Leeds against Premier League leaders Manchester City last weekend, but the 68-year-old was able to take “some hope” from his side’s second-half performance in a 2-1 loss at the Etihad Stadium.
Two almost identical first-half goals from Ilkay Gundogan put the Citizens in control, but an 85th-minute strike from Leeds’ top scorer Rodrigo – his 12th Premier League goal of the campaign – set up a nervy finish for the hosts just 58 seconds after Gundogan had placed a penalty kick against the post.
Nevertheless, Leeds were eventually condemned to their 19th league defeat of the season, and as a result of both Everton and Nottingham Forest claiming maximum points on Monday, Allardyce has seen his side slip to 19th in the table, two points adrift of safety with three games remaining.
Leeds supporters are sure to be fearing the worst now that they sit inside the relegation zone, although the West Yorkshire side have won all four of their Premier League games when starting a gameweek in the bottom three this season.
Back-to-back fixtures against two of Allardyce’s former teams in Newcastle and West Ham United are up next for Leeds, who drew the reverse fixtures against both sides earlier this season including a goalless stalemate at St James’ Park in December.
A victory is required to provide a much-needed survival boost for the Whites this weekend, though, and Allardyce could be the man to steer them to three points having won more Premier League games versus the Magpies (13) than against any other team in his managerial career.
A long-range effort from Martin Odegaard and an unfortunate own goal from Fabian Scharcondemned the Magpies to just their fifth league defeat of the season in an ill-tempered affair at St James’ Park, and Eddie Howe’s side still have work to do to secure Champions League football for next season.
Newcastle’s top-four destiny remains in their own hands as they currently sit third in the Premier League table and three points clear of fifth-placed Liverpool with a game in hand, but the resurgent form of the Reds has put pressure on both the Magpies and fourth-placed Manchester United heading down the home straight.
Although Newcastle still boast the best defensive record in the top flight this season, conceding only 29 goals in 34 matches, their resilience at the back has waned in recent months as they have kept a clean sheet in only one of their last 14 league matches.
The Magpies have also conceded in each of their last seven away games, but Howe will have had no complaints with his side accumulating 12 points from their last 15 available on the road, and another victory on Saturday at Elland Road, where they won 1-0 last season, can put the Toon Army in buoyant mood ahead of back-to-back home games against Brighton & Hove Albion and Leicester City next week.