We go into this fixture boosted hopefully by the confidence gained during the Hull game last week, where the creative players grew into the game and our midfielders maintained an element of control over proceedings after Cabella’s strike on the stroke of half time. In regards to the French spice boy this game represents a real opportunity to show he’s ready to take the seasons second half by the scruff of the neck, far too often with Ben Arfa we’d see a man of the match performance followed immediately by one in which he stood picking his arse for 90 minutes; how Cabella fares against a Stoke defensive third which will attempt to ruffle his feathers offers probably the most interesting subplot to this match.
Most importantly however is the opportunity this game represents to the club as a whole, win this game and we head into the final four months of the season looking to attack the top 10 looking upwards rather than downwards; lose and we begin to look over our shoulder again with our points advantage over the teams down there not looking as comfortable when you look at our difficult run of fixtures in March and April. It’s vital we go into this match looking to attack Stoke and come away with all three points.
In terms of starting XI’s John Carver has a few more options than he has been used to in recent weeks, given the victory against Hull it’s likely he’ll name an unchanged side and he does strike me as an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” kind of bloke. If I were in charge however I’d be looking to get Cisse back in the side ASAP, as we’re far more of a goal threat with him in there and Ayoze is isolated and quite frankly wasted in that lone striker role; despite him performing admirably and showing immense fighting spirit up there. I’d like to see him and Cabella buzzing around Papiss, the lad from Tenerife looks far more dangerous when dropping deep and running at defenders. Another change I’d be thinking about is Abeid in for Colback, who has looked off the boil recently and was unable to retain possession at Hull, this may have something to do with the number of matches he’s played this season. Abeid has a big future at the club and Anita can more than match Colback’s energy levels; at the KC he sowed things together and was unfairly overlooked when people discussed their man of the match. This game is also likely to see the return of Siem de Jong from the substitutes bench, I hope to God we won’t rush him back again. Paul Dummett is said to be back fit again, but I’d be surprised if Carver changes a defence that kept a clean sheet last week.
As for Stoke they’ve been hit with a couple of key injuries in recent weeks with their star of
the season Bojan being ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee ligament injury, they’re also sweating on the fitness of Ryan Shawcross who despite being a dirty so and so is undoubtedly a quality defender and his absence would most likely mean a rejig of the defence with Wilson moving to centre half and Mackem Bardsley moving to his unfavoured left side to accommodate Muniesa. They will however be welcoming back Cisse’s international colleague Mame Diouf who I rate highly. They come here on the back of a few good results, including a 3-1 win over QPR last week which hopefully put the final nail in the coffin of pigface Redknapp’s managerial career.
Likely Line Ups :
Newcastle United: (4-4-1-1) Krul; Janmaat, Williamson, Coloccini, Haidara; Cabella, Anita, Colback, Ameobi; Sissoko; Ayoze.
Stoke City (4-2-3-1) Begovic; Bardsley, Wilson, Wollscheid, Muniesa; N’Zonzi, Whelan; Arnautovic, Moses, Diouf; Walters.
Newcastle 5 Stoke 1; Boxing Day 2013 – After two relatively early, albeit correct red cards for Stoke. They caved in the second half as Remy (2), Gouffran, Cabaye and Cisse’s penalty left Mark Hughes fuming and Magpies smiling for once on Boxing Day
Newcastle 2 Stoke 1; March 10th 2013 – Despite going a goal down midway through the second half, United rallied and got back into the game with a Cabaye free kick before they won it at the death; with Cisse pouncing on a beautiful through the eye of the needle pass from Marveaux.