Newcastle United welcome West Bromwich Albion to St. James' Park Wednesday evening (afternoon stateside) with both sides putting emphasis on the three points for different reasons. Newcastle's dip in form is not a secret to anyone with the media latching on to the story and emptying out their Thesaurus in a competition for the perfect descriptor for our current run of results (awful, dreadful, shocking, horrible, etc. etc.). West Brom come in with fixtures against Manchester City, Everton and Spurs forming the rest of their holiday programme and thus are putting the emphasis on 3 points from this match.
When these teams met at St. James' Park on the final day of the season last year, there were goals in it, with a final score of 3-3 in a meaningless match. The Toon Army would be tremendously pleased to put 3 in again, especially if it is coupled with a better defensive effort. Let's jump and see some stat bites!
The return of 5 points!
- Neither team is in particularly inspiring form at this point (Newcastle is 1-2-3 over six, West Brom 2-1-3). West Brom are 2-2-2 on the road this season, scoring 6 times but conceding 10. Perhaps Demba can break through this time.
- It is not Newcastle this time who are holding a years long streak of non-winning results at a venue: The last time West Bromwich Albion won at St. James' Park in the league was 1977.
- Newcastle will want to score first - obviously, who wouldn't want to? The Toon, however, have won all 7 of the matches in which they scored first. Are you listening, Mr. Ba?
- Peter Odemwingie scored 15 goals last season, but had struggled to regain the same scoring form this season. He is on 3 goals this season, including an absolute corker v. Blackburn from the weekend. His preference for running at the defense may provide a stylistic problem for us as we tend to concede ground on the back line and then capitalize on a mistake or a double-team. Closing Odemwingie down may be something we want to investigate at least in part to minimize his attempts.
- Both sides are suffering from injuries and suspensions (goal scorer Morrison is doubtful for WBA, Cabaye is out through suspension for Newcastle). Jonas and Santon, Tiote and Obertan (if good Obertan shows up) should give us enough offensive options to trouble the Brums. While we'll hope that whomever steps in for Cabaye will be constructive in attack, the key will be for them to not get caught up away from the defense. West Brom capitalized on space between the center mid and center backs of Blackburn on Saturday.
Newcastle United FC
Currently: 7th place, 7-6-3, 27 pts
Possible: Ryan Taylor (ankle/foot)
Projected XI (4-4-2): Krul | Simpson, Perch, Coloccini, Santon | Obertan, Tiote, Vuckic, Jonas | Best, Ba
Projected Subs: Harper, Ferguson, Smith, Abeid, Ben Arfa, Sammy, Shola
West Bromwich Albion
Out: Gera (knee)
Doubtful: Morrison (calf)
Possible: Mulumbu (knee), Scharner (leg knock)
Currently: 13th place, 5-3-8, 18 pts
Projected XI (4-2-2-2): Foster | Shorey, Olsson, McAuley, Reid | Dorrans, Scharner | Tchoyi, Brunt | Odemwingie, Long
Projected Subs: Fulop, Jones, Tamas, Thomas, Mulumbu, Dawson, Cox
Tchoyi may not in fact be the first choice for replacement on the left, but as he scored 4 times against Newcastle (including a hat-trick at St. James' Park), I would sure put him in there. We could benefit from Morrison being out, and if Scharner doesn't pass fit, that would be beneficial to us as well.
This fixture has a history of goals, braces and hat-tricks, so we'll certainly be hoping that it is Demba Ba who this trend favors instead of Peter Odemwingie. While we had no real trouble getting the ball to Demba on the weekend, he still had A LOT of work to do the times we managed. If we can find him a little more space, then perhaps he won't feel as strongly that he needs to take all the chances upon himself. Jonas working more forward in tandem with Santon (but not having to track back as much) should only help... it's a work in progress as he has had to be so withdrawn with Raylor behind him this season.
This match feels to me like one that Newcastle would normally drop points from. We should, all things being equal, be the better team and take the points, but I don't feel very good about that prospect. I'm hoping that Alan Pardew and the lads take the pitch and put the whole package together this time out and prove me wrong.
Prediction sure to be wrong:
Newcastle United 2 - 2 West Brom