Newcastle United vs Stoke City
Newcastle welcome Stoke to St James Park this Saturday afternoon hoping to continue their new found good form against a Stoke side who have risen well to the ongoing challenge of their tricky opening fixture list.
Newcastle’s return to the Premier League seemed to have a few clouds hanging over it in recent weeks – with a poor start of 3 defeats (plus a 3-2 reverse at home to the Championship’s Nottingham Forest in the cup) being compounded with an all too familiar story of manager dissatisfaction with a lack of transfer business and another case of owner, Mike Ashley, having to answer to MP’s over his ‘victorian workhouse’ style treatment of employees.
While a convincing 3-0 win over West Ham and 3 points away at Swansea has arrested the poor form and lifted them up to tenth, Newcastle fans will be concerned by the rift developing between Rafa Benitez and Mike Ashley over the direction of the club (Rafa aiming to take the magpies into Europe). West Ham have been long admirers of Rafa and seem to have the resources, ambition and (if their form under Slaven Bilic continues) the need to bring him to the club. Where that would leave Newcastle, who started the season with a new found optimism on Tyneside, is anyone’s guess – especially while under the current ownership.
Stoke’s current position in the league (their traditional mid-table berth) does little to portray the quality of performance they have been putting in over recent weeks. No longer the hoof ball, rugby team of old, Mark Hughes has assembled a more dynamic attacking team of which is starting to get results. Last week’s impressive 2-2 draw to end Manchester United’s 100% league record caps a solid start to a tricky fixture list, (including victory at home to Arsenal) and they will be hoping to keep the results coming with games against Chelsea and Manchester City still on the horizon.
Newcastle look to come into the clash with a more or less unchanged line up, although expect last weeks super sub, Christian Atsu, to start while Serbia striker Alexander Mitrovic misses out through suspension allowing new signing Joselu the opportunity to start against his old club. Stoke are still without captain Ryan Shawcross, who missed last weeks game at Old Trafford, due to back injury and their defensive woes continue with Geoff Cameron also being ruled out – though Stoke will be confident with a back three of Zouma, Wimmer and Martins-Indi.
Stoke will be relishing what, on paper, is their easiest fixture so far this season and an opportunity to get three points on the board before the more tricky fixtures coming up. Newcastle will hope to continue on their new found form, although Stoke offer a more difficult challenge then that offered by West Ham and Swansea in recent weeks. A draw will not be enough to satisfy the ambitions of the fans of both sides so expect an engaging encounter with both sides expecting three points.
Prediction: Newcastle 1 Stoke City 2
Written by Fabian Wood.