This preview is written with all good wishes to Fabrice Muamba for continued success in his recovery.
A couple of weeks back, we discussed through the magic of Three Question Thursday the question: "How many points can we realistically take from our remaining 9 matches?" I was probably the most pessimistic of the lot, only coming up with a 15-point haul from the slate in front of us at that time. Here we sit on Easter Sunday, however, with 9 points from our first three matches and 6 matches still remaining. Perhaps I was a little too pessimistic. Not to put the cart before the horse, but I think that 15 points from those 9 matches would be slightly disappointing now. The squad looks to be rounding back into the form that took them off to the undefeated start that sustained us through a little lull in the middle of the season, rating us as one of the in-form teams of 2012.
This is certainly not a match in which either club have nothing to play for- Newcastle United are chasing Europe with afterburners engaged while Bolton have managed to lift themselves above the relegation fray. . . by a single point. Bolton have won three of their last four matches (that's the "numbers" way of ignoring they lost on Saturday) and will be looking to take anything they can from St. James' Park with every single point helping toward the ultimate goal of Premier League survival. Take the jump to see our 5 Point Preview!
- Interestingly, yet of no consequence, Newcastle and Bolton will have faced each other the day immediately following a major holiday for both league fixtures this year. The match at the Reebok was played on Boxing Day (December 26), and this one will be the day following Easter Sunday.
- Perhaps it is a shortcoming in my analysis or methodology, but it sure seems like there should be goals in this one. Bolton concede just over 2 goals per match on the road, and with Papiss Cisse banging them in for fun and Demba Ba due for a breakout, you could sure see them coming.
- It could be a very different looking Newcastle United midfield in Alan Pardew's 4-3-3 Of Doom™ with Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote both having been withdrawn due to injury on Saturday and Danny Guthrie having failed a fitness test on the weekend as well and Haris Vuckic also battling a knock. It could be conceivable that we see a midfield of Jonas, Gosling, Raylor, which is far from a Doomsday scenario, but not nearly best case scenario, either. How Newcastle can cope without both Cabaye and Tiote if neither an play will ultimately drive the result in this match.
- Desire. As I mentioned in the lead-in, both teams have a ton on the line in this match. Bolton are trying to keep themselves from being hauled back into the drop zone, and Newcastle are looking for exactly the opposite. Keeping the pressure on Chelsea is a must, while any hopes of hauling Spurs in for a Champions League spot hinge on continuing our recent excellent form. Whichever team goes out and gets the early statement is going to have a major leg up in the match. Newcastle achieve much better results when they score first, and they've been making a habit of pinching one inside the first 20 minutes... to state the obvious, this would be double-plus good if we could do the same again.
- Bolton have been able to score some goals recently; to their credit, these goals have come in six-pointers against their fellow bottom of the table clubs. They have not, however, managed to score against a top-half club (and I use this descriptor lightly, as they're barely hanging on to this status- they're only one point above the scum!) since their 3-1 victory v. Liverpool on January 21... which brings me to a sub-point: Williamson-Perch. I shouldn't feel this way, but don't we all sit here waiting for the bad to come? While they have been quite solid since Captain Colo's latest injury, there's that quiet little voice in the back of your head as a Toon supporter that is whispering "house of cards.... house of caaaaaards". Please please please play up to the level of your recent form you lovely lads!
Newcastle United FC (YAAAAAYYYY!!!)
Currently: 6th place, 16-8-8, 56 pts
Out: Sylvain Marveaux (groin), Steven Taylor (Achilles), Lovenkrands (thigh), Sammy Ameobi (knee), Cheik Tiote (hamstring), Leon Best (knee), Obertan (knock), Vuckic (knock)
Doubtful: Danny Guthrie (calf/shin), Yohan Cabaye (hamstring)
Projected XI (4-3-3 of Doom™): Krul | Simpson, Perch, Williamson, Santon | Raylor, Cabaye, Jonas | Ben Arfa, Ba, Cisse
Projected Subs: Elliott, Ferguson, Tavernier, Gosling, Abeid, Obertan, Shola
Bolton Wanderers (Hissssssssssss!)
Out: Muamba (critical illness), Mears (knee), Holden (knee), Gardner (thigh)
Possible: Lee (broken leg)
Currently: 16th place, 9-2-20, 29 pts
Projected XI (4-4-2): Bogdan | Alonso, Wheater, Ream, Ricketts | Reo-Coker, Davies, Pratley, Petrov | N'gog, Klasnic
Projected Subs: Jaaskelainen, Eagles, K. Davies, Boyata, Robinson, Tuncay, Miyaichi
What Will Certainly Not Occur:
Newcastle United 3 (Ba, Cisse, Ba) - 0 Bolton Wanderers