Preview - Bolton away
Two of the form teams in the Premier League meet each other at the Reebock. Both Newcastle and Bolton are on the crest of a wave. Who will sink and who will swim?
Both teams have defied early season predictions, and since the last international break in October, only Manchester United and Arsenal have accumulated more than their 11 points. Both sides have only lost one game, each of them at home, Newcastle inflicting Arsenal`s only 3 dropped points out of 18. No teams have scored more than the 11 each of Newcastle and Bolton in the last 6.
Both teams are under relatively new management, and both have had to work within limited resources, which makes their achievements even more notable. Both were capped by the Republic of Ireland although one was Jock born, the other cockney born.
Both managers have achieved promotions to the Premier League, Coyle with Burnley and Hughton obviously with Newcastle. Both had been in charge for part of the season when their teams were relegated too. Ironically, Coyle saved his new club Bolton at Burnley`s expense having made the switch in January 2010.
As a midfielder/striker, it is hardly surprising that Coyle tends towards the adventurous. That might also go some way to explaining why Bolton have not kept a clean sheet since the opening game of the season, a 0-0 home draw with Fulham, the same result as achieved by Newcastle against the same opponents last weekend.
Charged with trying to keep Newcastle at bay will be Jääskeläinen who has let in 12 goals in his 8 home Premier League matches against Newcastle, although only 1 in the last 3 home and away between these clubs.
Bolton boast an England international central defence, with Zat knight (2 caps) and Gary Cahill (1 cap) set to attempt to shackle the Toon attack. Veteran Paul Robinson should defend the left flank, whilst Welsh international, Sam Ricketts whose last performance against Newcastle helped Hull City escape the drop, could complete the line up although Icelander Steinsson could return after a ban.
Muamba, once of Arsenal via Birmingham we expect to see Zaire born Muamba holding, with Korean right sided dynamo, Lee Chung-Yong also set to feature. Scottish American international, once a mackem, Stuart Holden is in form, with Matthew Taylor, who once rejected Sunderland being a long range threat on the left. On the fringes, Petrov has already scored against Newcastle for Man City.
Up front, leading the line will be the bustling Kevin Davies who lost out to Andy Carroll in the last England squad. Alongside, we should see Elmander who is in form, but despite being top scorer has yet to register at home. Mouth of the moment, Middlesbrough born veteran Robbie Blake is in reserve.
For the visitors, the fascination is how the remnants of the relegated squad can perform, with new signings Tiote suspended, ben Arfa out and Perch out of form. A handful of January additions could also feature. In goal will be Tim Krul, adapting admirably to the Premier League pace with only 4 goals conceded in 5 games, featuring 2 clean sheets.
Defensively, the record breaking regular line up from the 2nd half of the promotion season look set to start despite the claims of England veteran Sol Campbell and contract rebel Steve Taylor. That leaves the composed quartet of Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini and Enrique firmly in the frame.
Options abound in midfield with the choice of 4-4-2 or 4-5-1, which may depend on the fitness of the strikers. With Barton suspended, the right side could fall to either Routledge in 4-5-1 or Guthrie in 4-4-2. Tiote`s suspension could mean a recall for the man who celebrated 5 years without a league goal yesterday, Alan Smith, whose debut was against the Trotters. Jonas has made the left side his own whilst Nolan could make up the four, ot push on in a 5 man midfield.
Up front, Carroll appeared on Wednesday to have shaken off his groin problem while Shola completed a run out in midweek for the reserves. Both should be fit to provide an aerial threat with Lovenkrands hungrily waiting in the wings and Ranger in the frame for a start too.
Referee for the occasion is Howard Webb, well known for his ability to turn a game as ably demonstrated in the Toon home match against Fulham in the relegation season, having spotted a non-existant foul by former Bolton favourite Nolan, as well as failing to send a Sunderland player off in another match. The £40m that it cost Newcastle will not have been on his mind as he bottled the World Cup final.
Newcastle have not won in 9 games under Webb, whilst Bolton have not lost under him for 5. The TOTT ref watch team might let his presence affect their confidence in a fair result.
Barring any undue influence from the man in black one of the talking points will bethe return to the Reebock of Nolan and Alan Smith. Smudger made his winning debut against Bolton, his last win when playing the full 90 minutes was under Webb. He could commemorate his 5 years of goalless league football with a goal or a red card to put him at the top of the Premier League list for reds. A second goal, if there are any, could see him involved in matches with 300 goals, none of them being his.
This fixture in Bolton has not been without goals since 1951, no Premier League match ending in a draw. With only 2 Bolton home wins this season, that could make Newcastle the favourites. Without consecutive 0-0 draws for Newcastle for almost exactly 3 years, and since May 2009 for Bolton, Sod`s law suggests that could be a distinctly possible outcome between these two.
Newcastle at Bolton:
56 W15 D13 L28 F84 A90
49 W14 D11 L24 F77 A77
10 W3 D0 L7 F15 A15
Bolton (from): Jaaskelainen, Bogdan, Cahill, Steinsson, Knight, Robinson, Lee, Holden, Muamba, Petrov, Cohen, K Davies, Elmander, M Davies, Blake, Taylor, Klasnic, Ricketts, Alonso, Moreno.
Newcastle (from): Krul, Soderberg, Simpson, Perch, Ferguson, Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, S. Taylor, Campbell, Kadar, Smith, Routledge, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Vuckic, Tavernier, Donaldson, Nolan, Carroll, Ameobi, Lovenkrands, Ranger, Xisco.