Manchester United v Newcastle United
Saturday November 18, 17:30
Live on BT Sport 1
Moody Mourinho looking to close the gap at the top
When Jose Mourinho is at the helm of a club, tension and angst are never too far away. With Manchester United now trailing their crosstown rivals City by eight points in the title race, fears are growing that Mourinho's irascible behaviour may get worse before it gets better, and the 1-0 defeat at his old club Chelsea before the international break won't have helped his mood.
First there was the flirtation with French giants PSG, an undisguised admiration for the club that could be seen as a cynical bargaining ploy, as the Portuguese coach discusses terms on a new deal with United. Mourinho has also been repeatedly vocal about the club's injury problems, even though he has one of the deepest and most expensively-assembled squads in Europe. In the case of Phil Jones, Mourinho has a point - it is extraordinary that a player that clearly wasn't fit was used by England in a friendly, and now Jones seems highly unlikely to face Newcastle this weekend.
Michael Carrick, Marcos Rojo, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are all on the mend, with the latter two in contention for a place on the bench on Saturday. Regardless of their injury situation, Manchester United can take solace from their outstanding home record against Newcastle - Opta tell us they have won 22 of their last 32 league games against the Magpies at Old Trafford, and have lost just once.
After a bright start, Magpies are in danger of losing altitude
After taking 14 points from their first 11 games, there no doubt that newly-promoted Newcastle United have made a solid start to the Premier League season. Despite a lack of investment in the squad over the summer from an owner looking to sell the club, manager Rafa Benitez has mixed and matched, and has made the most of the tools at his disposal.
However, the last couple of games have set alarm bells ringing. They showed a lack of ambition in a 1-0 defeat at Burnley, and then allowed their home game against Bournemouth to slip away from their grasp. The Magpies dominated the opening exchanges against the Cherries, but totally lost their way in the second half, and Steve Cook's last-gasp header provided a fully-deserved winner for Bournemouth.
As they prepare for a trip to Old Trafford, Newcastle know their wretched away form has to improve. They have won just once on their travels this season in the league, and they've failed to score in three of their five away games. If you stretch back into Newcastle's last Premier League campaign, you see that the club has won just one of its last 16 away matches in the top flight.
Newcastle look set to be without promising young midfielder Mikel Merino, while Christian Atsu (thigh) and Jamaal Lascelles (ankle) are both racing to be fit.
Hosts should be too strong, so back them to win well
Manchester United have won all of their home games in all competitions this season, and seven of those eight victories have been by a margin of two goals or greater.
Newcastle are struggling to score consistently at the moment, so I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that the hosts can win by at least two goals. Back them -1.5 on the Asian Handicap at 1.93.
Overs or unders a difficult call to make
The Over/Under 2.5 Goals market is split down the middle, and I'm not surprised. Newcastle's problems in front of goal and Benitez's good defensive organisation might lead you towards backing unders at 2.02, but overs may appeal at 1.90 when you consider that bet has paid out in five of United's eight home matches this season.
Back Lukaku to end his United goal drought
You can't keep a good man down for long, and even though Romelu Lukaku hasn't scored in any of his last seven appearances for the Red Devils, he did score three goals in two games for Belgium over the international break. If Jamaal Lascelles is absent from the Newcastle central defence, Lukaku can take advantage. I'm happy to back him to score in 90 minutes.
Back Manchester United -1.5 on the Asian Handicap at 1.93
Back Romelu Lukaku to score at 1.80