Newcastle United vs West Ham United
Venue: St James’ Park
Referee: Paul Tierney
Newcastle will be hoping to make it four wins in a row when West Ham visit St James’ Park on Saturday. The Magpies are on an impressive run of form and have been moving up the table in recent weeks. Last time out they beat Burnley away which propelled them ahead of the Hammers in the league and more importantly four points off the relegation zone.
West Ham, however, are coming off the back of a 0-4 defeat to the champions Manchester City. Despite the scoreline, the Hammers actually did impress with their attacking ability and were unlucky not to score at least a couple of goals.
Rafa Benitez will be in a positive mood ahead of his team selection this weekend. The form of midfielders Mo Diame and Ki Sung Yueng has been highly impressive in the absence of Jonjo Shelvey, but the Englishman could make his return to the lineup after watching from the bench against Burnley.
Jamaal Lascelles is yet another player who could return to the matchday squad. He has now recovered from a shoulder injury he suffered earlier this month, but even so, Rafa Benitez has said he is not a guaranteed starter – even if he is fully fit. Benitez has suggested that Lascelles will have to compete to win back his spot in the starting line-up. If Fabian Schar and Federico Fernandez continue playing the way they are, then the Englishman could have to wait for his next opportunity.
Meanwhile, Benitez is still waiting on news regarding Paul Dummett and Yoshinori Muto, who are doubts ahead of the game against West Ham.
Manuel Pellegrini, on the other hand, will be accompanied by a selection headache on the Hammers’ long journey up North. Star player, Marko Arnautovic, will be in line to start for the Hammers as he has overcome a knock picked up against City on the weekend. Arnautovic would have joined a long injury list at West Ham which already includes Manuel Lanzini, Andriy Yarmolenko, Winston Reid, Carlos Sanchez and Ryan Fredericks.
To lessen the blow, Pellegrini could call on Geordie striker, Andy Carroll, who is available for selection again. Carroll has just recovered from an ankle injury and could be in line to make his first appearance of the season against his boyhood club. In terms of this weekend, if Arnautovic does suffer a setback and miss the game, Javier Hernandez will probably get the nod to start ahead of Carroll. Pellegrini could also recall Jack Wilshere to the squad after his recovery from his own ankle injury, which has kept him out for the last three months.
One certainty is that Arthur Masuaku will not be starting in the left-back position after his horror showing against City which saw him substituted at half-time. This would see Aaron Cresswell start in the position as the two continue their rotation. While there have been calls for Masuaku to be played on the wing, he lacks the defensive focus in spite of his ability going forward. Perhaps, to see his full potential, he should be deployed on the wing.
Predicted Starting XI’s
Newcastle United (5-4-1)
Dubravka; Yedlin, Schar, Fernandez, Clark, Ritchie; Kenedy, Diame, Ki, Perez; Rondon.
West Ham United (4-3-3)
Fabianski; Zabaleta, Balbuena, Diop, Cresswell; Obiang, Rice, Noble; Diangana, Anderson, Arnautovic.
Score Prediction: Newcastle United 2 West Ham United 2
It’s hard to separate these two as Newcastle are on a great run of form, but West Ham arguably have the better players. This is especially true if Arnautovic is able to recover fitness for the game and make an appearance. Arguably, if he is unable to play, then Newcastle will have the advantage. While the West Ham attack does seem rather toothless without Arnautovic leading the line, the Hammers do still have some game winners such as Felipe Anderson, whose form has improved in the last few match weeks. Furthermore, the return of Andy Carroll could be huge and prove to be the difference for West Ham.
Newcastle also have some dangerous players of their own that could swing the game in their favour. Solomon Rondon has now scored his first goals for the club and the strong Venezuelan will be hoping to add to his tally against the Hammers’ fragile defence.