Newcastle United-Burnley Preview

The Associated Press

In the midst of a solid stretch of play, Newcastle United look to consolidate their mid-table status Saturday at the expense of Burnley at Turf Moor.

The Toons (6-4-6) have taken 13 of their 22 points from their last six matches, winning four. Steve Bruce's men are seeking a third victory on the trot after defeating Southampton 2-1 at home Sunday, getting second-half goals from Jonjo Shelvey and Federico Fernandez to overturn a deficit. Though Newcastle are 11th and last among four teams on 22 points, they are also just three points back of Manchester United for fifth.

While he did not bag either goal, striker Andy Carroll had plenty to do with the victory as the veteran target forward changed the complexion of the match with his bustle and aerial prowess. The St James' faithful were quick to laud their No. 7, who set up Shelvey's euqaliser with a cross the England international headed home.

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Despite the run of results, Fernandez was quick to warn against complacency for the Magpies as the congested holiday fixture list looms.

"We're working really hard and at the moment we are enjoying this situation," he told the Chronicle Live. "We've had a lot of games now and football can change quickly. The team is playing well in most of the games.

"We're working hard and playing off each other. It's a good position but we are trying to build on it and see where we can finish."

Bruce and the Magpies will have to get through the remainder of the month and the New Year fixtures without winger Allan Saint-Maximin, who suffered a hamstring injury in the victory. It's the latest in a series of knocks for the Frenchman, who has also dealt with an ankle woe. Christian Atsu is likely the first option to replace Saint-Maximin, who has one goal in 10 starts and 12 appearances in league play.

Burnley (5-3-8) are two spots and four points below Newcastle in the table and looking to avoid a fourth defeat on the spin. The Clarets have been ragged defensively in the last two games and absorbed a 5-0 thrashing at Tottenham Hotspur last Saturday on the heels of their 4-1 midweek defeat to two-time champions Manchester City.

Sean Dyche has seen his team either be brilliant or abject in defence over the last eight matches, of which they have lost six. In those six defeats, Burnley have shipped 20 of their 29 goals conceded, bracketing a pair of clean-sheet victories over West Ham United and Watford.

"It's been a week of reality," the gaffer told Burnley's official website. "We made two really big mistakes against Palace and got punished, Manchester City were too good for us and then today, again, that's the reality of this league.

"There's a massive gulf in the Premier League, so I'm not too despondent at the minute," Dyche added. "If you catch these teams on the wrong day, you get hurt. … We've caught two teams who are really hot, and we haven't been as hot as we need to be."

If there is a place for optimism at Turf Moor, it has been the play of Dwight McNeil, the 19-year-old midfielder who continues to impress in his second season a full-time starter. He has a team-high four assists and has shown a fearlessness in attack Burnley sorely need if they wind up being dragged into a relegation scrap.

"He's a young man who, as you saw today, is taking on the Premier League and he's been outstanding," Dyche said. "The kid has strength and the moral courage to have the ball, which is a massive strength in the Premier League and he's also got physical power."

Dyche is hopeful Ashley Barnes and Ashley Westwood will be available as both returned to training. Barnes shares the team lead with Chris Wood with six goals.

Newcastle did the double last term, which included a 2-1 victory in the corresponding fixture. An own goal by Burnley defender Ben Mee and a second by Ciaran Clark in the first 23 minutes gave the Magpies a lead they would not relinquish.

The Clarets had gone 1-3-0 in the first four top-flight meetings.

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