The Premier League returns after a two week break this weekend, although for NUFC it could probably stay away for another two weeks as the injury crisis continues to get worse.
It’s not only injuries that Newcastle will have to deal with tomorrow though. Suspension plays a small part, as does recent form as well as the inability to win a home game at three o’clock. All of these factors come into play as we prepare to face an in-form Wolves side who have only lost one game in the last seven.
This is a relegation six-pointer, make no mistake about that. Sam the Eagle will have his team suitably pumped up for the encounter, but then again Wolves are pumped up for most encounters. They are a hard-working side who fight for everything and display a (cliche alert) never say die attitude, but they do have their own injury problems to deal with.
Top scorer Kevin Doyle will be out for at least six weeks after he picked up an injury on international duty. Ronald Zubar and David Edwards are also ruled out whilst Stephen Hunt and Adlène Guedioura are both rated as doubtful for the St James’ Park encounter.
Wolves have not won a league game at Newcastle since 1959, but history goes out of the window tomorrow. As has been mentioned, Wolves are in a decent run at the moment despite having the worst away record in the league. They have only picked up eight points on the road this term, and that figure was boosted dramatically by their last match in which they won 1-0 at Aston Villa. For that match they lined up with a team consisting of;
Wolves: Wayne Hennessey, Kevin Foley, Richard Stearman, Christophe Berra, George Elokobi, Adam Hammill, Karl Henry, Nenad Milijas, Jamie O’Hara, Matt Jarvis, Kevin Doyle.
Moving on to the home side…..
Newcastle have well documented injury problems, and this two week break was supposed to help us get some players back to fitness. It hasn’t worked out like that though and instead we have an injury list that has grown with the news that Leon Best could well be out for the rest of the season.
It doesn’t end there though as it looks as though we’ll still have to wait to see Stephen Ireland make his Newcastle debut, although the news that Ireland is only on a pay-as-you-play deal has slightly softened the blow and calmed the rage. Jose Enrique is only rated as 50/50 for the match as well when it was thought that a two week respite may have allowed his hamstring strain to clear up.
Then add in our long-term casualties such as Hatem Ben Arfa, Alan Smith and Dan Gosing and our suspended duo of Cheik Tiote and Ryan Taylor (the latter is good news by the way) and you can see that we have somewhat of a selection problem.
In a rare moment of good news for Newcastle United fans, Joey Barton and Jonas Gutierrez have both come through the two week lay-off without aggravating their respective injuries whilst Shane Ferguson, who impressed at The Britannia, is on standby to make his full Premier League debut.
It’s up front where we are struggling at the minute, so that is going to be the main area to address as we prepare to do battle. Top scorer Kevin Nolan is not our top scorer for no reason. He knows where the back of the net is so the key for me will be making sure he can get into the positions where he can inflict his damage. If that means playing him slightly more advanced then it must be done as, in my opinion, he is probably just about the best finisher at the club.
For that reason I would start with a 4-4-2, but I would instruct Nolan to play slightly more advanced. Guthrie is going to start by the looks of it whilst Barton will be on the right wing again so I’d instruct them to to tuck in when Nolan pushes forward. I’d play a team (assuming Jose doesn’t make it) of;
Newcastle: Steve Harper, Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Shane Ferguson, Joey Barton, Danny Guthrie, Kevin Nolan, Jonas Gutierrez, Shefki Kuqi, Nile Ranger.
I realise that the front pair is a bit of a wild card, but it’s pace and power combined with work rate from the pair. The can also hold the ball up and allow people to get forward in support, namely Kevin Nolan, who can then add an additional threat. It’s crazy, but it might just work….
The last three Premier League meetings between the two sides have all ended up with a 1-1 scoreline.
Newcastle have won one game in ten and have drawn five of the last nine league matches.
Officiating the match will be Mike Dean who last took charge of a match at St James’ Park back in January when Newcastle beat West Ham 5-0. Hopefully he can bring us more good fortune.
This match needs no build up. A win for the away side would suck us straight into the relegation mire whilst a win for Newcastle would take us another step towards Premier League safety and would settle down a lot nerves that are jangling at the moment. A draw would be neither here nor there really, but it would be better for us than it would be for Wolves I’m sure.
One more thing. Don’t forget that you can keep up with everything regarding the match here at NUFC Blog including pre-match build up, a juicy article to talk about the match itself as well as post-match reaction an analysis.
Howay the lads!
A lifelong Newcastle fan and current webmaster of this very 'blog who has the sole aim of creating a place by Newcastle United fans, for Newcastle United fans.