Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 29.
The cornerstone of Newcastle United’s impressive nine-match unbeaten Premier League run has been a well-organised defensive set-up marshalled by January signing Burn.
Before this sequence of results, Newcastle had conceded two or more goals in 12 of their opening 18 matches of 2021/22, leaving themselves with too much to do at the other end of the pitch.
Thanks to Eddie Howe and his staff, coupled with the additions of Kieran Trippier, Matt Targett and Burn, mistakes at the back have been few and far between in recent weeks.
Across this nine-match spell, Newcastle have not let in more than one goal in any of their fixtures and will hope to continue this at Chelsea on Sunday.
|First 18 matches||Last eight matches|
|Expected goals against/90||2.0||1.1|
The difference in Newcastle’s defensive stats since their 0-4 defeat to Manchester City on 19 December is remarkable.
They are being opened up far less often, keeping opponents at bay by retaining their shape more effectively, usually in a compact 4-3-3 formation.
Their Expected Goals Against (xGA) average per 90 minutes has halved over the course of the last eight matches, proving that their upturn is deserved and not down to good fortune.
Four of their five lowest xGA numbers for the entire season came in matches Newcastle played during February.
Since arriving, Burn’s excellent performances have left Newcastle fans impressed.
The 29-year-old, who is a native of the north-east, has been in brilliant form since making the switch from Brighton & Hove Albion.
Forming a well-balanced partnership with Fabian Schar, the 6ft 7in left-footed centre-back has looked assured in and out of possession.
Burn has made several crucial interventions via blocks inside the box and by intercepting dangerous passes.
He has also been an incredibly dominant aerial presence, clearing crosses sent into the area more often than any of his team-mates.
|Per 90||Newcastle rank|
Some additional credit should also go to a new-look midfield trio operating in front of Howe’s back four.
Jonjo Shelvey, Joelinton and Joe Willock are all attack-minded midfielders, but as a collective they have worked extremely hard to provide protection for the Magpies’ last line of defence.
In their 2-1 success at Southampton, Bruno Guimaraes came into the starting XI, scoring his first goal for the club with a sublime volley to win the match.
Absolutely sensational! 😍🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/dvmI71GnYj— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) March 11, 2022
While Chelsea will be an entirely different prospect, Howe has won on three of his five visits to Stamford Bridge as a manager.
The form of Burn, and their recent unbeaten run, will give Newcastle plenty of optimism that they can cause an upset in west London.