IT has featured the high of winning the Championship title and the low of briefly dropping into the Premier League’s bottom three, but DeAndre Yedlin is hoping Newcastle United end a typically eventful 2017 on an upbeat note when they host relegation rivals Brighton in their final game of the year this afternoon.

This time 12 months ago the Magpies were preparing to sign off 2016 with a home win over Nottingham Forest that lifted them to the top of the Championship table. A lot has happened since then, both on and off the pitch, but Newcastle’s players can look back on their efforts in 2017 with a fair degree of satisfaction.

Promotion was achieved with a bit to spare, and while this season’s return to the top-flight has hardly been without its challenges, Newcastle find themselves a point clear of the drop zone as they prepare for their final outing of the year.

Loading article content

While Wednesday’s game with league leaders Manchester City was something of a free hit in terms of pre-match expectations, this afternoon’s meeting with a Brighton side that accompanied Newcastle into the Premier League this summer is a much different proposition.

Win, and Newcastle will leapfrog their opponents and move towards the safety of mid-table. Lose, and they could head into 2018 entrenched in the bottom three.

“I think it’s been a good 12 months,” said Yedlin, who has successfully established himself as Newcastle’s first-choice right-back this season after battling with Vurnon Anita for the spot in the first half of the year.

“There have been some highs and lows along the way, but we have to be pretty pleased with a lot of what we’ve achieved this year. We’ve got one more game to go, and it would be good to end the year with a win against Brighton.

“That would be the ideal way to head into 2018, and hopefully we’ll be going into the New Year with a win under our belt and a little bit higher in the table.”

With the bottom half of the Premier League having become extremely congested in recent weeks, today’s game kicks off a run of three matches that could play a crucial role in determining where Newcastle eventually finish in May.

After hosting Brighton, the Magpies head to struggling Stoke City on New Year’s Day before entertaining bottom club Swansea City in the game after the FA Cup third round.

Newcastle are currently on 18 points, and will almost certainly require at least as many again in the second half of the season to avoid a rapid return to the Championship.

As Wednesday’s game proved, it has become all-but-impossible to take points from the top four or five clubs in the table, so the remaining matches against the teams in the bottom half will almost certainly dictate what happens to the Magpies at the end of the campaign.

“The next three league games are very important,” admitted Yedlin. “The season is not going to be decided by what happens when we play against Man City – it’s going to be decided by what happens in the matches like the next three games.

“We’re playing against the teams that are close to us now, and they’re all six-point games. We have to be very focused and make sure our preparation is right. I’m sure the lads will be up for it, and we’re all excited about the challenge.”

On a personal note, Yedlin has enjoyed an extremely successful 2017, with his attacking surges down the right-hand side having become a key feature of Newcastle’s attacking play.

There was the disappointment of the United States’ failure to qualify for next summer’s World Cup finals, but after struggling to establish himself in the Premier League with Sunderland, Yedlin has successfully cemented his top-flight credentials in the last four months.

His overlapping runs are important to the way Rafael Benitez likes to play, although they were pretty much non-existent as Newcastle mounted a spirited rear-guard action against Manchester City three days ago.

They were a key feature of last weekend’s win at West Ham though, and the 24-year-old is hoping to be able to bomb down the flank on a regular basis this afternoon.

“Hopefully, I get on the front foot a bit more this weekend,” he said. “It wasn’t really the way I enjoy playing (against Man City), but sometimes you have to do that, and I’m going to do whatever I have to do to help the team.

“If that means sitting back and just defending the whole game, then if that’s what’s asked of me, that’s what I’m going to try to do. The game plan was a good one, but the weekend’s game will obviously be different. Rafa has a lot of experience and will come up with his approach, and we’ll be doing everything we can to try to execute it.”