Newcastle United will be without Loic Remy (calf) and Mathieu Debuchy (groin). The former is expected to miss four weeks, and the latter three (The Shields-Gazette). No long-term injured players are expected to return this week, so Rob Elliot (knee), Davide Santon (knee), Gabriel Obertan (knee), and Ryan Taylor (ACL) are all out as well. Meanwhile, news continues to be sparse about Hatem Ben Arfa, who may or may not be actually injured and/or dead in Alan Pardew's closet. Fabricio Coloccini is set to return after he took last week's game off to deal with a personal matter in Argentina. The Toon will of course be without Pardew thanks to his headbutt incident of two weeks ago, so John Carver will stand on the touchline.
Fulham have some questionable players, as Fernando Amorebieta and Ashkan Dejagah will all take late fitness tests, while Giorgis Karagounis, who was thought to have been on the bubble, has been definitely ruled out. They will continue to be without former Magpies Scott Parker and Damien Duff.
The Toon are once again without Loic Remy. I suspect that Pardew will feature Luuk de Jong and try to get him a goal against the leakiest defense in the league. I would prefer they took the opportunity to move Yoan Gouffran up and insert Sylvain Marveaux, but it's more likely that Papiss Cisse will be a 1 for 1 change (leaving us once again with nobody who can take free kicks). The fullback situation is interesting as well. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa did well in Coloccini's place last week, so perhaps one way to keep him in the lineup is to simply slide him over.
Krul | Yanga-Mbiwa, Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett | Sissoko, Tiote, Anita, Gouffran | de Jong | Cisse
Fulham fans are clamoring for the replacement of Maarten Stekelenburg, but the expectation here is that Felix Magath will stick with his #1.
Stekelenburg | Riether, Heitinga, Hangeland, Riise | Dejagah, Kvist, Sidwell, Richardson | Holtby | Mitroglou
As silly as it sounds, Fulham's best hope in this match might just be the home support. If Newcastle can shut Fulham down early, the fans may well turn on their own team, but if the opposite happens, the support will be unreal. To that end, I think it would be a mistake to come out in an attacking shape. Newcastle can score even if they remain patient, given the Cottagers' porous back line.
One key matchup to watch for will be Cheik Tiote against on-loan Lewis Holtby, who has been a bright spot for the team at the bottom of the table. If Holtby is able to have an impact, Newcastle will have to shore up the right side of the defense with Debuchy out. The good news is that Fulham are not an aggressive side, so the defensive mistakes should be minimal.
Fulham are actually the favorites to win in this one, which I suppose accounts for an expected air of desperation for the Cottagers combined with Newcastle's penchant for flubbing games they're supposed to win. I expect to see more resignation than desperation from the hosts, and while I don't expect the Magpies to light up the scoreboard, I can't believe that they'll struggle against a team that hasn't won since November.