It's Christmas Day when you're reading this, and as such, I'm going to try to keep it positive. Not much sense in dragging spirits down on a holiday, eh? We can't delude ourselves, of course, this is the same Newcastle team that has only taken 2 points from their last six fixtures. It's the same club that took only 1 point from three consecutive matches against bottom-half teams. And I will try to allow that to be enough of that. So we limp into Boton with fixtures against Liverpool and Manchester United looming and subsequent to that the departure of Demba Ba and Cheik Tiote on national team duty. The expression "make hay while the sun shines" seems especially appropriate now, and three points really has to be the minimum hope from our Boxing Day trip.
Meanwhile, following a run of 5 consecutive losses, a win for Bolton in their last match (Blackburn) means that they have come out better in the last six matches than we have. . .which is somewhat sobering. Be that as it may, the preponderance of the evidence from the season as a whole would suggest that we are a better side based on results and thus should expect something out of this encounter. Let's jump and look at some points and perhaps a smidgeon of hope.
- Bolton are not known for their stingy defense... in fact they have only kept two clean sheets in their last 23 League matches. Further, their League form this season has been all losses or wins, they have not drawn once. This, of course, means that we will draw 0-0.
- Bolton have won seven of their last eight home matches v. Newcastle United.
- Bolton have conceded first in each of their 13 losses this season. Newcastle have not been defeated when they have scored first this season. I'm sure you can see where this is going.
- Bolton have won both of the previous Boxing Day matches with Newcastle United.
- Newcastle United limped away from this fixture last year having suffered a 5-1 defeat. Granted things were a little bit different relative to the two teams.
Newcastle United FC
Currently: 7th place, 7-6-3, 27 pts
Out: Sylvain Marveaux (groin), Danny Guthrie (groin), Dan Gosling (suspension) Steven Taylor (Achilles), Yohan Cabaye (suspension), Lovenkrands (calf)
Possible: Davide Santon (knee)
Projected XI (4-4-2): Krul | Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, Santon | Obertan, Tiote, Cabaye, Jonas | Best, Ba
Projected Subs: Harper, Ferguson, Perch, Vuckic, Ben Arfa, Sammy, Shola
Out: Davis (knee), Ricketts (achilles), Riley (hamstring), Alonso (foot), Mears (broken leg), Holden (knee), Lee (broken leg), Gardner (thigh)
Currently: 19th place, 4-0-13, 12 pts
Projected XI (4-4-2): Jaaskalainen | Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson | Reo-Coker, Davies, Muamba, Petrov | N'gog Klasnic
Projected Subs: Bogdan, Eagles, K. Davies, Boyata, Robinson, Tuncay, Pratley
Bolton give up shots in bunches, and block them at a decent clip. We all know that Mr. Demba Ba doesn't need very many shots to convert, so this should be good news. Generally passing numbers have been fairly poor against Bolton (and for them, for that matter), but a higher quality midfield such as Spurs* was able to move and pass at a 90% rate. We will have our first choice midfield available, so hopefully we will be able to exert a similar amount of control on the match,.
The last several weeks there have been warning klaxons about this matchup or that, this tendency or that... and there are fewer of those for this match, if we're honest. The question is will footballing acumen express itself for Newcastle- team spirit and morale is all well and good... but let's be frank. We NEED these three points.
*remember back in the day when our midfield compared favorably to their midfield, even when on the same pitch? Those were nice days.