If there can be a six pointer this early in the season, then Saturday’s meeting between Newcastle United and West Ham is just that.
The Hammers prop up the Premier League table, pointless after two defeats and with seven goals conceded, while Newcastle fare only marginally better after a pair of losses and no goals scored.
A classic is unlikely. But with the pressure already on Rafa Benitez and Slaven Bilic, Saturday’s game at St James’ Park promises to be a big one in the context of the early weeks of the season.
West Ham head to Tyneside deflated after Saturday’s last-gasp defeat to Southampton; losing to Charlie Austin’s late penalty after coming from two behind to draw level with ten men.
The Magpies, meanwhile, were beaten 1-0 by fellow new-boys Huddersfield Town and looked toothless at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Our friends at Football Whispers provide the lowdown on everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s game (kick-off 3pm).
Key battle: Dwight Gayle v Jose Fonte
After netting 23 times in just 26 Championship starts last season, Gayle will be looking to prove he can cut it in the Premier League after an underwhelming stint with Crystal Palace.
Gayle, 26, scored 15 goals in three top-flight seasons with the Eagles before being sold to Newcastle last summer and taking the iconic No.9 jersey worn by Alan Shearer.
But so far the former Bishop’s Stortford hitman has struggled to adapt following promotion and he will be desperate to break his duck against a leaky West Ham defence.
A major culprit in the Hammers’ defensive woes is experienced centre-back Fonte. The 33-year-old joined from Southampton in January for £8million.
But Fonte, who won the 2016 European Championships with Portugal, has been woeful since moving to the London Stadium, conceding four penalties last season and another against the Saints on Saturday.
Impressive on the South Coast, he has failed miserably to transfer that form to the London Stadium.
Potential match winners
Despite not possessing the best record in the top flight, Gayle is Newcastle’s main threat. The striker, who has worked his way up from non-league football, is blessed with explosive pace and will trouble the Hammers’ less-than-mobile backline.
Winger Matt Ritchie is not as quick but the Scottish international is another with a point to prove after dropping into the Championship to join the Magpies from Bournemouth last summer.
Capable of playing on either flank, Ritchie scored 12 league goals and supplied seven assists last term. He is the Magpies’ creator-in-chief in the absence of Jonjo Shelvey.
For the Hammers, Javier Hernandez is off and running after bagging a brace in the 3-2 loss at Southampton last weekend.
Both, typically of the Mexican, were inside the penalty area meaning all 39 of his Premier League goals have been from 18 yards or less.
Manuel Lanzini is the East Londoners’ other big threat. He stepped up to the plate following Dimitri Payet’s January move to Marseille and will pull the strings from the No.10 role for the visitors.
Last term Newcastle boss Benitez tended to set his side up in a 4-4-1-1 system with one of Shelvey or Mo Diame playing off of Gayle.
However, the former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss switched to 4-2-3-1 this term with two defensive midfielders providing greater protection for his back four. Those roles should go to Isaac Hayden and Borussia Dortmund loanee Mikel Merino this weekend.
West Ham boss Bilic is also an advocate of 4-2-3-1 with three supplementary forwards all playing fluid roles behind Hernandez.
He will have a decision to make on Saturday, though, as record-signing Marko Arnautovic’s red card for a forearm smash means he’s out for three games.
Newcastle are without Shelvey for two more games thanks to the one-time England international’s moment of stupidity against Tottenham on the opening day, stamping on Dele Alli in front of the referee.
Benitez’s big dilemma, though, is whether to go with Gayle or new signing Joselu, signed from Stoke City last week, to lead the line.
The Hammers should bring Lanzini back into the side in place of Arnautovic as the Argentine is expected to recover from a knee injury in time.
With Winston Reid (groin) sidelined, Bilic’s only alternative to the haphazard centre-half pairing of Angelo Ogbonna and Fonte is veteran James Collins.
Mark Noble’s place in the side is also under pressure thanks to a poor start while youngster Declan Rice could be in line for another start at the base of midfield.
In the last 13 meetings at St James’ Park between Newcastle and West Ham, the Hammers have won just once.
That victory, a 1-0 success in November 2012, was secured by Kevin Nolan who previously played for the Magpies.
Overall, Newcastle’s Premier League home record against the Hammers since 2000 reads seven wins, five draws and a defeat.