After 3 games, Wolverhampton and Newcastle had both earned 7 points from 3 and were sitting pretty with regard to the table. The two clubs' fortunes have diverged from there. Wolves have lost three on the trot and have fallen to 12th, while Newcastle have pulled a further 5 points from the last three games and sit 4th. After the jump, 5 points that may or may not actually bear any influence on the match.
- There are three things that a betting man might put money on with regard to this fixture-- those things are: The Newcastle starting XI and the Wolves starting XI (the clubs are tied for fewest individual players to start in the Premier League this season at only 14 specific players each) and, if he were the kind to not bet against a trend, a bet on the result of the match to be 1-1. Three of the last four matches have ended in the same scoreline. (Although to be fair, there were about 7 years between home-and-away pairs of matches... and we did take the last match 4-1 [Chopra did not score]) 1-1 would seem as likely as not, although. . .
- Sylvain Ebanks-Blake is not likely to feature for Wolves in this fixture, which will be welcome news to the Newcastle back line; Ebanks-Blake scored all (both) of Wolves' goals against the Toon last season. Steven Fletcher comes in as Wolves' leading scorer at 2 goals on the season from 4 matches. Interestingly, Fletcher has twice been a club-record signing (first for Burnley prior to their relegation in 09 and then for Wolves at £6.5 million). Fletcher brings 62 goals from 224 career matches, although a bulk of those were from his time with Hibernian (spit) in the Scottish Premiere League.
- It figures that Newcastle will want to play with their newly discovered flowing style of passing, and Wolves will do whatever they can to find a body to clatter into- the Magpies' ultimate success may boil down to how well our midfield can keep their cool when faced with Karl Henry at his finest. McCarthy is desperate for a stop to the recent losing streak, and I don't imagine that the directive is going to be "Go out there and give it your best Barcelona, lads!"
- We will need continued solid play from our center backs if last year's tactics are to be any guide- the bulk of which depended upon Wolves' wingers getting out wide and bombing in crosses. The left side may be key if this is in fact to be the strategy; where we had Joey Barton patrolling the Newcastle right against Jarvis on the Wolve's left, we now have Obertan against Jarvis on that side. Obertan not being much for tracking back could present a very long game for Danny Simpson.
- If our midfield keep their cool and manage to work the ball forward as they have been, the next question becomes: Which of our three-goal behemoths steps forward to do the work on Saturday? Does the ball find its way to the most current hot hand in Ba, or does Best continue to (frustratingly) find himself in the right place at the right time with the hope that he can put it away this week? I guarantee you if someone had offered me 6 goals in 6 games from our forwards, I'd have taken it in a heartbeat-- but 6 games does not a season make. I'd like to see them both poach one, but I have a feeling that we'll end up 0-0 into the 60th minute and be hoping for a good shot of HBA and Marveaux to try to pull the points at the death.
- Wolves probable starting lineup: Hennessey, Elokobi, Berra, Johnson, Stearman, Henry, O'Hara, Jarvis, Ward, Fletcher, Doyle
- Newcastle probable starting lineup: Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Saylor, Raylor, Tiote, Obertan, Jonas, Cabaye, Best, Ba
My prognosis? I feel like this game will go ugly- we may not get the passing game up and running in the manner that we want to. Failing an early goal to set the tone, I think we'll see what I described above-- 0-0 moving into the late stages. I see Newcastle with a goal in them, but I'll be thrilled if we come away with anything more than a draw here. I'll bet the trend and say final score: Newcastle 1 (Ba)- Wolves 1 (Doyle)