Newcastle aim to build on the credible Europa League draw against Anzhi and move further away from the bottom three by defeating Stoke, with the Potters looking to end the dismal run of results that saw them slip into the bottom half of the standings. They are also hoping the Magpies will be tired after making a trip to Russia in midweek.
Newcastle back in business
Even if they had been battling for the Champions League places last season, not too many people were surprised to see Newcastle struggling in the opening exchanges this term given the circumstances. With key players missing the start of the season through injury and the squad made incredibly thin by numerous absentees, it was only normal that Newcastle have problems with the hectic schedule. However, club chiefs were absolutely brilliant in the January transfer window, signing five quality players who were able to quickly fit into the first team set-up at St James Park. As the likes of Steven Taylor, Gabriel Obertan and Hatem Ben Arfa were slowly returning into action, Newcastle began to raise their game and they have been playing some excellent football of late. Their great Premiership run may have ended at Liberty Stadium, but it is important to note the Magpies played really well in that match, just like they did in the goalless draw with Anzhi in midweek. Given that several important players are back after missing the trip to Russia, Newcastle look ready to return to winning ways.
Mathieu Debuchy and Yoan Gouffran return as they were ineligible to face Anzhi, but Papiss Cisse is doubtful and Tom Krul and Fabricio Coloccini are injured.
Difficult period for Stoke
Stoke have done well to justify the tag of one of the toughest sides in the elite division, and another mid table finish appears on the cards for Tony Pulis’ side. However, the team are going through a very rough patch at the moment, and while that shouldn’t get them into position to fight for their lives, the Potters clearly don’t have much reason for optimism ahead of the trip to St James Park. Stoke have lost three of last four league fixtures, only beating sorry Reading at home, with back to back defeats to Fulham and West Ham acting as a big blow to the players’ confidence. The mere fact the Potters had just five shots on goal against the Hammers goes to show that the team are far from the desired form at the moment, while the absence of Robert Huth is likely to further damage their chances of getting something from St James Park.
The German defender continues to miss out through suspension, while Matthew Etherington is carrying a back injury.
Newcastle are playing great football at the moment and the huge strength in depth should help them produce another solid showing just three days after impressing against Anzhi in Russia. Stoke, on the other hand, are clearly out of form and they cannot be expected to match Newcastle in the state they are in at the moment.
Top pick: Home win 1.85 (17/20) @ Paddy Power
Alternative pick 1: Newcastle to score two or more 2.00 (1/1) @ Stan James
Alternative pick 2: Newcastle/Newcastle 3.00 (2/1) @ SkyBet
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