Game number 33 of the season will see Bolton Wanderers make the trip to St James’ Park.
The match comes just three days after the Magpies travelled to Swansea where they picked up a 2-0 victory to record four straight Premier League wins for the first time since 2006.
On paper this one should be a home banker, but here at Newcastle we don’t do home bankers and tend to be more familiar with the term “coupon busters” in games where we are strong favourites for, as we are this time around against a team who sit in 16th position in the table, just one point above the dreaded drop zone.
In contrast Newcastle are flying at the moment and have won games through very different approaches in recent weeks. We saw determination and grit against Norwich, attacking pride and power against West Brom, solid defensive work against Liverpool and clinical finishing against Swansea. But for a last gasp Juan Mata goal at Stamford Bridge yesterday we’d be sitting in 5th, but even though it wasn’t to be we are doing the right things by winning our own games and keeping the pressure on those above us as the season reaches its climax.
There is worrying news from Cheik Tiote, who seems to have ruled himself out of this one after coming off against Swansea with a hamstring complaint. In a way it makes sense considering we have a 12 day break from the Premier League after this match. Yohan Cabaye (thigh) and Demba Ba (ankle) were also hauled off in that match but there are expected to be no issues with them and they should be good to start. Also out are Steven Taylor, Sylvain Marveaux, Sammy Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands, Danny Guthrie and Haris Vuckic, while Gabriel Obertan remains missing for no apparent reason.
The good news though is that Fabricio Coloccini should be fit to play again, although Alan Pardew has hinted that he may choose to rest his Captain for this one – a decision no doubt made easier by the rather surprising yet no less satisfying James Perch/Mike Williamson combination at the back.Once again this may also have something to with not rushing players considering there is a 12 day break comping up.
Fabrice Muamba is abviously out, although the good news is that the midfielder is recovering well from his trouble. Stuart Holden has a knee injury and Chung-Yong Lee has a broken leg, so neither of them will be lining up for the Trotters.
The last meeting between the two sides ended 2-0 to Newcastle, with goals from Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa doing the damage. The last match at St James’ Park however ended in a 1-1 draw, with a goal from Kevin Nolan being cancelled out by the on loan Daniel Sturridge before Ryan Taylor saw red for a rather ridiculous challenge from Ryan Taylor. It’s a game I remember well as I took Mrs Toonsy (a Portsmouth fan, well, ex Portsmouth fan…) to the match for her birthday… Smooth mover me like!
Generally we’ve done well at home against Bolton in this era of Premier League football. Of 11 meetings at SJP we’ve won seven, drawn three and lost just once, back in 2006.
Tactics and team selection
As the home side we will be expected to go at Bolton, which means another game playing the 4-3-3 that has served us so well in recent weeks. The only real issue is how to replace Cheik Tiote should he really miss the match. Do we then play Colo at the back and move Perch into midfield? Or do we leave the defence well alone and drat in someone like Dan Gosling, who did well at Swansea, and give him a chance to impress? To me that is the only real question mark over the team selection as our players have had a day longer to rest and prepare for the match.
Up front you simply have to play the troublesome trio of Hatem Ben Arfa, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse. People didn’t really respond well to seeing Demba Ba not celebrate our second on Good Friday, but I feel that a lot has been made out of nothing regarding that articular episode, and subsequent “Tweets” from the Senegalese forward seem to back me up on that.
In Papiss Cisse we have the form striker in the league right now, but the brutal truth is that wouldn’t back against any of the front three to cause damage on any given day. Other teams must hate playing us now we have all three of them in the team at the same time. They are hard to track, swap positions all the time and will track back and help the team defend. In short, they are fantastic assets for us.
Match stats and facts
Only three teams have stopped Newcastle from scoring on home turf this season – Chelsea, Swansea and Arsenal.
Papiss Cisse has scored two goals in each of his last three games, and nine goals in eight games in total since his move from Freiburg.
Newcastle need eight more points from the last six games to better our total from the first half of the season.
I alluded to this earlier, but the only thing we can really do is keep winning our games and see what happens at the end of it. I’d say that 6th place is pretty much guaranteed now, and if we get pipped to 5th or 4th or whatever it has still been a fantastic season for us.
It’s games like these which we need to win though to keep us in the hunt a bit longer. The problem is that Bolton are scrapping for their lives right now and will want to make amends for a disappointing home defeat to Fulham yesterday. Will we continue our scintillating recent form? Or will we take this game for granted and gift Bolton some points?
Howay the lads!
Date: Monday, 9th April, 2012
Venue: St James’ Park