Newcastle United go into tonight's game with Manchester City knowing that the next three weeks could act as a catalyst for the rest of their season. Three of the next four league games are at St. James Park, which is where the Magpies need to kick-start their campaign.
With a season that seemed to offer the chance for Newcastle to start to rebuild in the right direction, it has once again turned into a ghostly affair with us not even at the end of October.
The early season encouragement at Old Trafford and win against Bolton six days later has been undone on and off the field, and Newcastle find themselves looking up at teams they really should be looking down upon.
The turn around needs to start at home and in St. James Park they have a fantastic arena for this to happen. It needs to become a hard place for visiting teams to come and play at again. Over the past couple of seasons too many points have been lost to clubs in the bottom half of the league and this must stop.
Tonight could provide the scene for this. There is always a special atmosphere during an evening game at St. James, and with a cold front blowing in from the North Sea it will be the first real test for Manchester City's South American contingent.
This could play into Newcastle's hands and they need to make the most of it. Confidence is not over-flowing from the team from Eastlands either. They have not been in the best run of form themselves, and with internationals returning from all corners of the foot-balling world, tonight could well prove to be Newcastle's big opportunity.
With the small matter of a Tyne-Wear derby on Saturday, tonight's game has added significance. They need a performance and most importantly three points to give encouragement to everyone connected to the club.
After Saturday they entertain WBA and Aston Villa in a West Midland's double header, and with both teams playing attractive and free flowing football—with the exception of the weekend—there are no easy points to be picked up.
There is one major cause for concern for Newcastle tonight, and for the next two games at least: goals!
The lack of goal scorers available to Joe Kinnear tonight is huge. With no Viduka or Owen and with Martins yet to score this season, scoring from open play is going to prove a tough ask.
With all but three of Newcastle's goals coming from Owen this season, it just shows that this team creates and finishes few chances. Manchester City's defense needs to be mentioned as a factor as to why Newcastle will find it a struggle to score.
Richard Dunne and Micah Richards look set to be reunited in the back four, and with both players looking to prove a point for their own reasons this game will be tight.
With Spurs losing away at Stoke yesterday, Newcastle must look at this game as an early season must win.