TOTT Preview, Fulham v Newcastle
The Magpies visit Fulham for Wednesday night`s Sky TV match, after a week of differing fortunes for both sides. 2 of Sir Bobby`s former clubs should throw up an interesting encounter.
The home team come into the match on the back of a good week, having had an emphatic cup victory over London neighbours Spurs. Their transfer window has seen the arrival of French teenager Gael Kakuta from Chjelsea, who featured in the first half of the Pensioners` League Cup defeat against Newcastle. Also added is Eidur Gudjohnsen with a glittering career of achievement in club football.
After a 10 day break, some of it spent team building in Portugal, the visitors find themselves torn apart, the leading scorer and most prodigious talent having felt forced out of the club. Once again, squad spirit will be called upon to heal the internal rifts.
Despite the break, Pardew takes a depleted squad to Craven Cottage. Having sought to strengthen during the transfer window, there is not much left. Most of the team would therefore seem to pick itself starting with Harper in goal.
Simpson will start at right back, Jose Enrique on the left, with Coloccini and Williamson the likely centre pairing, Steve Taylor being injured and Sol Campbell appearing out of favour under current management. Perch provides cover along the line with youngsters Tavernier and Kadar out on loan.
Loan signing, Stephen Ireland, completes a 5 man midfield of Ryan Taylor on the right, Smith at the back, Ben Arfa on the left and Dan Gosling in the middle of the treatment room. Any senior midfielder left is on the pitch, Jonas on the left, Barton likely to take up the right, now that Routledge is no longer an option, Guthrie in the middle and Nolan everywhere else. Tiote competes his 3 match ban.
Bizarrely, with Carroll having hit the headlines and Xisco gone, there is actually some choice up front, Ameobi being the closest thing to a leader of the line, Best seemingly preferred by the manager. Lovenkrands will hope to play a part, with Ranger undoubtedly keen to prove that he can take Carroll`s place.
For once the bench will throw up extra interest. The obvious occupants are Krul, Campbell, Perch and 2 strikers. The remaining 3 will include wide player, Ferguson, but the 2 others might give a clue as to future development in the squad.
Mark Hughes is remembered as a potential managerial target for Mike Ashley. He started his club management career courtesy of Newcastle, taking over Blackburn after Souness moved to the North East. His own record against Newcastle started with a draw, followed by 3 defeats, and is unbeaten in the last 5.
There are choices in the Fulham goal with Mark Schwarzer returned from international duty. However, Yorkshire born former Darlington keeper, Stockdale has kept 5 clean sheets in his 10 games this season, only being on the losing side in a 1-0 defeat against Andy Carroll`s new club.
Newcastle old boy, Aaron Hughes could miss out through injury in defence, leaving local favourite, Ghanain Pantsil, the Norwegian giant Hangeland, and Ulsterman Chris Baird or Mexican Salcidoto be supplemented by one other.
In midfield, visiting eyes will be on, Damien Duff, the man whose own goal in the Villa match secured relegation two seasons ago. Former Toon target Sidwell is a sure starter, with veteran captain Danny Murphy also slotting in. The impressive Moussa Dembele provides a link with the strikers.
Up front, the latest pairing is the American stalwart, top scorer Dempsey, his Makepeace coming in the form of diminutive firecracker that opponents love to hate, Andy Johnson. Former Smoggy, Greening, provides the option for Dembele to move forward later in the game.
Referee for the occasion is Mike Jones. He has presided over two home defeats for Newcastle this season, as well as away at Man City a couple of years ago, making his Premier League record for the Toon a consistent one of 2-1 defeats, despite seeing a Championship victory at Ipswich with a Nolan hat trick. Fulham have picked up 3 points out of 24 under him since the turn of the millennium, despite a couple of successes in the 90s.
Fulham come into this match in their best run of form this season, 3 league and 2 cup wins since Christmas, with Newcastle unbeaten in the league this year. This fixture has never been goalless at Craven Cottage, despite the 0-0 draw earlier in the season and one other at St James` in April 1979, Newcastle never having won down here in February. The first score draw in the Premier League looks to be a decent bet in a match that could go either way.
Newcastle at Fulham:
29 W8 D5 L16 F46 A60
8 W3 D0 L5 F11 A13
Fulham (from): Stockdale, Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Baird, Davies, Riise, Murphy, Sidwell, Etuhu, Duff, Dempsey, Gudjohnsen, Kakuta, Kamara, Gera, Dembele, Etheridge, Salcido, Greening, A Johnson, Halliche.
Newcastle (from): Harper, Krul, Simpson, Perch, Ferguson, Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, Campbell, Barton, Nolan, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Vuckic, Donaldson, Ameobi, Lovenkrands, Best, Ranger.