Newcastle – West Bromwich (Premier League)
Newcastle will be aiming at a fourth consecutive win against a West Bromwich side that have twice allowed their opponents to get a draw after leading for most of the match – versus Chelsea and again versus Aston Villa last Monday.
Following their 2-1 victory over Norwich City, led by Newcastle‘s former manager Chris Hughton, the Magpies will be looking for a win that would propel them into Champions League spots if a few results go their way over the weekend. Alan Pardew’s odd-sounding decision to bench arguably Newcastle’s best player Hatem Ben Arfa has coincided with three wins in as many matches and the rise to eighth place, a mere two points behind Manchester City in fourth. Besides Ben Arfa’s exclusion from the starting line-up, Shola Ameobi’s inclusion in the starting XI should be highlighted, since it has allowed Loïc Remy to keep up his scoring streak – in fact, the French forward has now scored 8 goals in his last 8 Premier League matches, a feat no doubt helped by Ameobi’s vital decoys and physical presence. However, the team’s defensive phase also merits compliments, with Tim Krul conceding only 5 goals since the start of October, including the amazing victories against Chelsea and Tottenham before the international break (4 wins and just one defeat in their last 6 Premier League matches). Other than that, it bears mentioning that Papiss Cissé particularly likes West Brom, since he has scored 3 goals in 3 matches against them, more than he has scored against any other side. There are still some fitness doubts over Paul Dummet and Steven Taylor, while Ryan Taylor is definitely out.
Probable line-up: Krul – Debuchy, Williamson, Yanga-Mbiwa, Santon – Sissoko, Tioté, Cabayé, Gouffran – Shola Ameobi, Rémy
As for West Brom, theirs is a team that has consistently proved hard to beat (a quality in high demand in the Premier League, even more so in this season’s edition, given the inconsistency from most teams), but who have only won once in their last away matches – including 4 draws). However, Steve Clarke must take some solace in the energetic displays against Chelsea and Aston Villa – particularly during the first half – and in Shane Long’s newfound scoring streak, since after going 10 Premier League matches without any goals, the forward has scored three times in his last 2 appearances in England’s top tier, after scoring in the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge and notching yet another goal while playing for Northern Ireland against Latvia. Clarke will also be buoyed by the fact that Anichebe has scored more goals in the Premier League against Newcastle than versus any other team. West Brom will not be able to count upon Ben Foster, Grant Thorne and Zoltan Gera, but should be able to welcome Liam Ridgewell and Scott Sinclair back.
Probable line-up: Myhill – Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell – Brunt, Mulumbu, Yacob – Sessegnon, Amalfitano, Long
This match involves the only two teams that currently hold a neutral goal difference, following their good form up front and their less than stellar performances at the back. Given that there have been no clean sheets in the last 8 Premier League matches between these two sides, we should be in for a cracker of a match. While Newcastle have won only two of their matches against West Brom in all competitions, they have on the other hand won five of the seven times both teams have met at St James’ Park since the Premier League was created.