The Chalkboard: Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden key for Newcastle against Wolves

Newcastle will be in for a tough test against Wolves this weekend, with each side embarking on vastly different campaigns so far this term.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s men are the best of the rest right now, sitting pretty in seventh place as they aim to get into Europe having only just been promoted. In stark contrast, Rafa Benitez’s Magpies are down in 15th, and are yet again stuck in the middle of a relegation scrap.

How should Newcastle set up?

The Midlands-based side are a phenomenal counter-attacking unit, and have two midfielders in Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho who are extremely effective at dominating the midfield and dictating the play.

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Meanwhile, Newcastle fans may well be looking forward to seeing the link-up between Salomon Rondon and Miguel Almiron for the first time after the latter was granted his work permit, but it is another pair that could play a decisive role.

Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden couldn’t be further from the Portuguese duo in terms of their technical ability, but what the pair are quite impressive at doing is being annoyingly disruptive in the middle of the park.

Benitez must set his side up to defend deep and limit the space in behind the back four, so Neves’ dangerous long-range passing ability won’t be able to unleash the likes of Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota and put them in on goal.

What must Longstaff and Hayden do?

If Neves and Moutinho are allowed free reign on proceedings at The Molineux on Monday night, then the Magpies are in trouble – even if the space in behind for them to aim for becomes limited, they are both equally as adept at finding the net from long range.

The Magpies duo need to decide who man marks who, and follow their every move throughout the game and look to intercept any loose balls.

What they can’t do, however, is join the back five in sitting deep and inviting the pair onto the edge of their own box, where they’ll almost definitely test Martin Dubravka in goal enough times for it to become a problem.