Former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson believes that Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce has no choice but to set his team up pessimistically.
The Magpies boss has adopted the tactics of former Toon chief Rafael Benitez in recent weeks, setting his team up to play on the counter. Lawrenson expects more of the same against West Ham United on Saturday, but believes the Hammers will triumph 2-1.
“Just when I thought West Ham were about to push on, they started a run that has brought only two points from their past four matches,” he wrote on the BBC Sport website.
“But while the Hammers are still horribly inconsistent, at least we know what to expect from Newcastle – they will come to [the] London Stadium and try to park the bus. Steve Bruce’s side cannot really do anything else, because they offer such little threat going forward – which is why I am backing West Ham, despite their poor form.”
This is going to be an interesting game on Saturday. Newcastle are, by all measures, not a great Premier League team, but West Ham are in really poor form at the moment. The hosts will view this as a get-right game, but the Magpies will fancy their chances in east London, as well. As Lawrenson says, Bruce really has no choice other than to play pragmatically. He doesn’t have the attacking talent to go out there and play expansively. He tried to do that earlier in the season and got destroyed by Norwich City of all teams, and so he quickly realised that there was a reason Benitez didn’t try to play like Manchester City while in charge at St James’ Park. It’s no surprise that Lawrenson has plumped for a West Ham win, despite their tough run of late. Manuel Pellegrini simply has much more talent at his disposal than Bruce, but that doesn’t mean Newcastle can’t come away from the London Stadium with something on Saturday.