Newcastle United will host West Bromwich Albion in the final game of the season at St. James' Park on Sunday. The last team these two teams met, WBA came away with a 3-1 victory at The Hawthorns, and Chris Hughton was sacked two days after. The Baggies have a new manager as well in Roy Hodgson, and in the last few months the two teams have followed a similar path, securing mid-table finishes in their first seasons back in the Premier League.
Follow the jump for this week's match preview, including CHN's Keys to Victory.
Newcastle United FC
12th place, 45 points, 11-12-14
Injured (Out):, ,
Injured (Questionable): Alan Smith, Leon Best
Otherwise Unavailable: Cheik Tiote
Projected XI: Krul | Simpson, STaylor, Coloccini, Jose Enrique | Lovenkrands, Barton, RTaylor, Ferguson | Shola Ameobi, Sammy Ameobi
West Bromwich Albion FC
11th place, 46 points, 12-10-15
Injured (Out): Graham Dorrans, Pablo Ibanez
Projected XI: Carson | Shorey, Tamas, Olsson, Reid | Scharner, Mulumbu | Thomas, Brunt | Cox, Odemwigie
Match Official: Mark Halsey
At the outset of the season, this game was highlighted by many as one that may have relegation implications, and instead it is one of just three matches this weekend that won't have any effect on the bottom three or the top five. Nobody will be watching this one except us and a contingent of faithful WBA supporters, and let's be honest: many of you will be sneaking peaks at some of the more...meaningful goings-on.
That's not to say that there will be no motivation for the lads, however. Not only will the squad be looking to guarantee a final finish over the mackems (and let's not forget the money Mike Ashley will receive - the difference between eighth and fourteenth places is worth almost £5 million), but Alan Pardew is sure to run out several youngsters over the course of the game. They, along with the fringe senior players, will want to prove their worth to their manager before he embarks on what could be a summer with the most roster turnover in recent memory.
To that end, while one shouldn't expect to see a whole lot of tactical gameplay between Hodgson and Pardew, those who are faithful enough to see this one out should be treated to a contentious and energetic affair as an injection of youth and eagerness will open up the game on both sides of the pitch. They'll also be treated to the horrid new kits, but that's another story for another day...
CHN's Keys to Victory
1. Keep the ball on the left.
Newcastle will want to keep Jerome Thomas off the ball as much as possible. He's a danger in any case; more so when Danny Simpson is the one responsible for marking him. The Magpies need no encouragement to play a left-handed game; they've made no secret of their intention to do exactly that for the vast majority of the season. It will take a bit more determination with Jonás Gutiérrez out due to injury, and the Baggies' formation advantage in midfield will also cause problems. Ryan Taylor must play sound football in the holding role if Thomas is to be denied his opportunities.
2. Score early.
WBA have conceded the second-most goals in the Premier League this year (68) and the most in the first 15 minutes (11). Meanwhile, Newcastle have only scored 3 second-half goals in the last 10 matches. The beginning of the match is the obvious window of opportunity.
3. Let Ryan Taylor take free kicks.
Joey Barton is a fine taker of set pieces, but mostly his strategy consists of hit-and-hope, and not much else. Alan Pardew's elaborate plays demand a more precise executioner, and Ryan Taylor has acquitted himself well in that role of late. As long as he is permitted to continue, set pieces will remain a strength for the Toon.