It isn't often that you are going to find yourself being able to type the words "Newcastle United are getting healthy at exactly the right time" when that exact right time is with 5 matches to go in the Premier League Season, yet that is exactly the situation in which I currently find myself. Heading perhaps the most vital 5-match stretch that the club has seen in many years the hospital ward that has been the injury list for Alan Pardew is down to only Steven Taylor, Sammy Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands out with Tim Krul having a slight back complaint that should not keep him out of the match. If this season can be summed up by any one statement to this point, it is that for the most part, the team have taken points from the matches that they should have... winning the matches that they should have more often than not. It has not always been pretty, but they've managed the results one way or the other. You would have to feel that, at St. James' Park, this match is another of those.
In the reverse fixture earlier in the season, two things of note happened: 1) Demba Ba put in a hat-trick against the club that "is not sorry" that they scuppered a deal to sign him last January and 2) Alan Pardew had one of his greatest tactical triumphs of the season. Where the match was viewed with a degree of trepidation by many in the Toon Army, a perfect mix of pressuring the ball and sound positioning and support helped Newcastle run out 3-1 winners. This match also gave us this beauty of a hashtag from Twitter: #Idrymyballsonothermenstowels - in response to Ryan Taylor's use of Rory Delap's towels prior to throw-ins. Following the jump- our 5 Point preview!
- In my gratuitous "Fun With Numbers" point, Stoke City have won only 4 times at St. James' Park in the last 113 years. Granted, they have only played 35 matches at St. James' during that time... but that's not nearly as much fun.
- Lions of Teranga FTW. Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse have accounted for 26 goals between them this season. Stoke have scored 32. Demba Ba has scored 16 goals this season. Stoke's top two goal scorers have totaled 14. I think you can see where this is heading.
- As you may have read or heard, Newcastle's 5 consecutive wins are their richest vein of form since 2006. What you may not have heard is in the Bolton match, the Magpies achieved their third consecutive clean sheet at home, equalling their longest run in Premier League history (which as we know sounds very grandiose but actually numbers 20 years). Setting a new standard with a fourth consecutive clean sheet would go a pretty fair distance in locking up European competition - it would be down to capitalizing on #2 to seal the deal.
- Mike Williamson. I readily admit I have been one of the leading advocates of the MIKE WILLIAMSON IS AWFUL!!!111! Brigade... but is that really the case? Sure, he's good for one or two really embarrassing moments per match in which he gets turned inside out and left with his underwear for a hat... but the fact is, Newcastle have kept 8 clean sheets out of 16 matches with Williamson at the heart of the defense. In 17 matches with Steven Taylor in the middle? 5 clean sheets. This is not to purport that Mike Williamson is better than Steven Taylor... it is meant to get to the point that if Mike Williamson can deal with Peter Crouch or Kenwyne Jones or whichever 38 foot tall striker Pulis decides to employ, you're going to really like Newcastle's chances.
via @craigyd76 on the Twitters
Newcastle United FC
What May Or May Not Happen
If Tim Krul plays, as he should, it could end up like this:
Newcastle United 3 (Ba, Ben Arfa, Cisse)- 1 (Crouch) Stoke City
If Rob Elliott plays, heaven help us, it could end up like this:
Newcastle United 3 (Ba, Ben Arfa, Cisse) - 7 (Crouch (2), Palacios, Jones (2), Delap, Whitehead)