WBA v NUFC Match Preview
This Sunday will see us come up against a team our recent past appears inexplicably intertwined with. Relegated together in 09, they finished second in our year in the championship to join us in bouncing back. Since then, we have both parted with the men who gained us that promotion and moved forward as teams, building on that success by trying to sign the same players (Tiote chose Newcastle, Long ended up in the midlands) and establishing ourselves in the premier league, finishing in 11th and 12th positions last season. Even their strip looks similar to ours.
An added spice this time round is that for the second match in a row we come up against a team trying to claim the honour of becoming the first team to do the double over our us this season. Only Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and this weeks opponents remain in with a shout after the Magpies foiled the Canaries in their attempt to achieve that dream at St James' park last weekend. However, the Throstles have something their East Anglian counterparts lacked - home advantage....... or do they?
Calling something an advantage implies that it is a favourable position to be in, but a quick peek at West Brom's home record - P 14, W 4, D 2 L 8 (plus their exit from the FA cup on home soil), indicates that The Hawthorns may not be such a happy abode for Roy Hodgson's men this year. What is bizarre though, is having gone 12 home games with only 2 wins all season, the Baggies have won 2 on the bounce, thrashing Sunderland 4-0 and squeaking past Chelsea 1-0, throwing everything up in the air.
Disastrous home record or not, Newcastle would have went cautiously into this tie with a team who have become something of a bogey side of late. No wins against WBA home or away since 2009, 3 years, 6 games, 3 defeats, 1 cup exit and an evaporating 3 nil lead costing us 8th place have all passed since Peter Lovenkrands' (who loves scoring against WBA, but unfortunately will not feature in this game) first start and first goal for us after JFK's heart trouble. In fact, since our last win against WBA, the only current premier league teams we have failed to notch a win against are Chelsea, Man city and Spurs.
Ancient history is not on our side either. This is to be the 60th game between the 2 sides held near Birmingham, and out of the previous 59 West Brom have won 28 to our 13. Add to this that we have only won 2 of the last 8 and I'd say we're due one. Of course, the ball is firmly in Alan Pardew's court to make this a reality and he will be acutely aware that a 3-1 defeat to West Brom was the final game of Chris Hughton's reign.
In each of the last 4 games between us, West Brom have managed to score 3 or more goals and when the two teams met back in November, the pace of Odemwingie and Long put our high line to the sword. Therefore, the news that both of these players may not be on top form, should they feature at all, this weekend should lighten our defensive worries. Odemwingie is a doubt with his calf muscle strain although the baggies' assistant coach has been quoted as saying he'll get the nod, and Long made his first start since having a terrible time with back and heart conditions only last week against Wigan. Further cheer could also be gained from the knowledge that no West Brom striker has scored since back in February. We all know how NUFC have a habit of streaks coming to an end in our matches, but let's hope it's the Hawthorns Hoodoo which is shattered come the end of 90minutes.
West Brom Player To Watch: Youssouf Mulumbu. I would really like to see this guy in Newcastle colours. Does his job well in the centre, covers everything, tackles well, AND he pops up with the odd vital goal with his runs from deep. Top player.
Tiote could return but is still doubtful, as is Raylor. Long term injured Saylor, Sameobi, Lovenkrands and Best are still out, but news this week is Marveaux is back in training.
For West Brom, Odemwingie may feature if reports are to be believed. Andrews and Brunt will shake off knocks to play a part. Fulop is doubtful with Reid and Gera still out long term.