Newcastle go into December in a much stronger position than they started November. A month that saw three wins in a row, and lifted the team from the foot of the table. The home wins against Watford and Bournemouth, couple with a Monday Night Football win over Burnley at Turf Moor, saw a four game unbeaten run continue.

December could turn out to be a pivotal month for Rafa’s men, as they look to try and cement a mid-table place, going into the second half of the season. Apart from a Boxing Day visit to Anfield to face Liverpool, December as a whole plays host to some winnable games for the Toon. With fifteen points to play for, based on current form you would think that nine points out of these fixtures may be enough to keep us in and around mid-table.

The next five games sees West Ham, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham visit St James’ along with away games at Everton and Huddersfield. This block of games can be seen as a continued step towards another season of Premiership safety. With confidence high, on paper these all look like winnable games, especially taking into account the tactical superiority Newcastle have shown in closing out games more recently, along with an improved set of performances from key players.

Taking recent form into account, on paper you would say the visit to Goodison Park on Wednesday 5th December will be Newcastle’s biggest test, and could well be the game we are least likely to take anything from. With that game sandwiched between home games against West Ham and Wolves. Both of whom have spent high in the summer transfer window, but find themselves within a couple of losses from a relegation fight.

West Ham, even though further down the table, find themselves in a better run of form than their West Midlands counterparts, although they suffered a home defeat to Manchester City at the weekend, could prove a tough test for a resurgent Newcastle side. The Hammers have picked up five points from their last possible fifteen, but a lack of goals, and ability to break teams down seems to be their main downfall. Relying on Marko Arnautovic as the main catalyst going forward, it will be case of keep him quiet and you keep West Ham quiet in the main. On the whole Newcastle have a good record against the East London side, winning four of the last five meetings. In front of a raucous St James’ Park, Newcastle will be looking at taking all three points from this one.

The Wednesday fixture against Everton looks like the only game where we could drop points. The history doesn’t make for good reading either, as Newcastle have lost their last five against the Merseyside club. A much improved Everton this term under Marco Silva find themselves in sixth in the league, and have only lost once in their last six, an away defeat to Manchester United. As defensively sound as Newcastle have looked recently, mainly down to, in part, the form of Federico Fernandez, I believe will come unstuck against the Toffees, and realistically can’t see us taking anything from this game. But is only one of two games in December where we may struggle to get any points on the board, the other being just across Stanley Park.

The second home game of the run see’s the visit of newly promoted Wolves. The big spending midland team have seen an emphatic halt to their early season form, without a win in five, and only picking up one point in that time. On the pitch this should be a decent game for the neutral, and will be shown live on Sky on the Sunday. Wolves all out attacking play, against the tactical nous that is Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle side, and our own attacking flair going forward, should see goals in this one. The biggest question about this game is whether actions off the field will affect the performance on it. With a planned protest of the game, could a potential dwindled turnout have an effect on the players in Black and White on the pitch, and could it give the Wolves players a lift. Given that they may not face the full might of the wall of noise from the Cathedral on the Hill. I think there is potential for three points in this game, however there are too many potential contributing factors to the atmosphere and performance, I think a point should be enough in this one.

The final away game before Christmas, sees the Toon go up against Huddersfield. The Terriers were early season favourites for relegation, however their current form would suggest otherwise. The Yorkshire side also finished November unbeaten to lift themselves out of the relegation zone. The fact that they have beaten both Wolves and Fulham, and managed a draw with West Ham, shows that even the supposed weaker sides are picking up points from teams in a similar position in the table. A feat that Newcastle also need to show, and have shown in recent weeks. Even though we faced a loss there early on last season, this game should at least see Rafa with a full squad, apart from Florian Lejeune. That coupled with how the team have performed as a cohesive unit in recent weeks, and implementing a tactical masterclass from manager Rafa Benitez, should see Newcastle come away from the John Smith’s Stadium with all three points.

The final game before the Christmas break sees Newcastle play host to bottom of the table Fulham. Whether they will still be bottom when they make the long journey up to the North East remains to be seen. A small renaissance under new manager Claudio Ranieri seemed to have started this past weekend at home to Southampton. The game itself will be overshadowed by the return of Aleksandar ‘Mitro’ Mitrovic, putting extra pressure on the 24 year old Serbian, which can take the pressure of the boys in black and white a small amount and just allow them to go out and play their game. It remains to be seen whether the ‘new manager form’ will take a hold of the Cottagers, or whether they will slip back to form that saw fall to the bottom of the Premier League, complete with shipping in the most goals. With Fulham’s form all season, regardless of a managerial change, coupled with a rise in confidence from the Magpie’s, this should be a comfortable home win, to send the fans home on a high, just in time for Christmas.

Leading up to Christmas, with how the teams around us are performing, I said earlier nine points from a possible fifteen should be enough to keep us in and around mid-table by time we visit Liverpool on Boxing Day. From this run of games though, I have Newcastle winning three (West Ham, Huddersfield and Fulham) and picking up a point against Wolves in front of the Sky camera’s, and I can see a defeat against Everton. However this block of games, as long as the results are there, should see Newcastle safely into the upper end of the bottom half of the table come Christmas.

Carl Richardson