NUFC v Stoke - Match Preview
Will we see the Magpies who gained a win on Merseyside, or the team that lost its last home match against Blackpool?
A year ago today saw Newcastle leapfrog West Brom with a 4-0 win at Ipswich to take the lead in the Championship. It was a position only to be relinquished for a few days before ultimately finishing in the same position. A win today would put the Toon into a UEFA spot.
Stoke`s last visit to St James` was almost two years ago in a match that ended 2-2 with a former Newcastle player, Abdoulaye Faye scoring in the dying minutes. In the 58 matches on Tyneside, Stoke have won only 3 times since the first fixture, over 112 years ago.
Tony Pulis will certainly hope that this is a year to change the outcomes. He will be well familiar with the Newcastle style, having had Shola on loan, and having tried to land Andy Carroll during the summer. He has built a combative team, but will that be enough?
The line up should include former mackem keeper Sorenson, who has not shown the best of form this season. This will be his 10th visit to St James` at first team level, having been on the winning side 3 times with Villa and Sunderland, but with only 1 clean sheet.
The back line is characterised by height, with former Boro man Huth, former Mag Faye, captain and former ManU giant Shwacross and former mackem Danny Collins making up a physical quartet. They may be vulnerable to the Magpies` width.
Jermaine Pennant has returned to English football and impressed so far. Along with the throws from Delap, he is the creative spark. Cornishman Etheringtom who worked with Hughton at Spurs is also capable of changing a game on the left, with former mackem captain Whitehead a 3 time loser (with 1 draw) against Newcastle.
Up front, Kenwynne Jones is sure to attract the attentions of both the crowd and probably Mike Williamson. Jon Walters, part of the Ipswich side on the wrong end of that 4-0 Ipswich match a year ago as well as scoring in the return, is also set to start.
Featuring on the bench are a player who rejected Newcastle, Eidur Gudjohnsen and another former Smoggies in Tuncay and Higginbotham. Wilson will look forward to be reunited with Williamson from Portsmouth days.
Hughton has a number of selection headaches, caused by the fantastic midweek League Cup triumph at Stamford Bridge. Tim Krul will seek the opportunity to make the number 1 shirt his own in hopefully his first full Premier match and maintain his record of not conceding a league goal. Soderberg proved his ability to warm the bench at Stamford Bridge.
Right back will be a dilemma, with Perch again available and in sight of a record 6th yellow in 6 games, although Ryan Taylor provides a set piece option. Campbell probably didn`t do quite enough to dislodge either Coloccini or Williamson whilst Enrique is the best equipped for what could be a testing afternoon on the left flank.
Jonas has defensive ability on the left side of midfield with Ben Arfa having given a glimpse of his attacking potential last week. Routledge could find himself rotated but is well capable of providing ammunition. Tiote and Smith face a battle for the holding role, with Barton and Nolan under threat from a potential 4-4-2 formation.
Up front, Carroll has shown himself to be an emergent force, although Ameobi has given glimpses in the League Cup that he may finally be realising his partly unfulfilled potential, the unfulfilled part having been evident during his loan spell in the Potteries two years ago. Lovenkrands can not be ignored with his 12 goals in 11 starts at home this year. Playing 2 up front would allow Carroll to fulfil the defensive duties in which he is so accomplished
Referee for the event is Mike Jones, who was in charge for that season-turning fixture at Ipswich last year. This will be his 3rd match with the Toon, and the first at St James`. Stoke have a good record with him at home, although not away but he will be remembered for a home win against Sunderland as well as a draw at the SOS.
Without a win at St James` in 11 games since 1976, Stoke will be the underdogs, as Blackpool were a fortnight ago. We are set to see a different formation, with skill against strength, but perhaps a reversion to the 4-4-2 the worked so well at home last season.
Newcastle v Stoke at St James`:
P58 W42 D13 L3 F149 A53
P44 W29 D13 L2 F111 A44
ewcastle (from): Krul, Soderberg, R Taylor, Perch, Ferguson, Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, Campbell, Kadar, Smith, Tiote, Barton, Routledge, Gutierrez, Ben Arfa, Vuckic, Tavernier, Donaldson, Nolan, Carroll, Ameobi, Lovenkrands, Ranger, Best.
toke (from): Sorensen, Huth, Faye, Collins, Shawcross, Delap, Etherington, Pennant, Whelan, Whitehead, Walters, Fuller, Jones, Gudjohnsen, Wilkinson, Higginbotham, Wilson, Begovic.