The visit of Fulham to St James’ Park signals the start of a week of destiny which will have a large bearing on the rest of the season for us.
Three home games within the space of a week will ensure that, one way or another, we know whether we’ll be safe or not.
Next Sunday the Mackems visit SJP. On Thursday Benfica travel to the North East with United needing to overturn a first leg deficit, but first off it’s Fulham who rock up at the cathedral on the hill in decent form. Positive results in the two league games are a must and if we can win both we should be pretty much clear of any relegation worries. Turning it round against Benfica would be the icing on the cake but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves and take things one game at a time, starting with Fulham.
Yoan Gouffran will return after sitting out the defeat at Benfica due to being ineligible to play for United in the Europa League. Cheik Tiote could return after a muscle strain although he is officially listed as “doubtful” so we’ll have to wait and see on that one. Danny Simpson should be fine to feature after picking up a knock in Lisbon.
Unavailable for us are Mathieu Debuchy, Fabricio Coloccini, Massadio Haidara, Ryan Taylor, Haris Vuckic and Hatem Ben Arfa.
Steve Sidwell will miss the match after having his appeal for his red card against QPR last weekend overturned. Ashkan Dejagah is out with a sprained ankle, Mladen Petric is missing courtesy of an abductor problem and Mahamadou Diarra is sidelined for the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
Fulham have a good record against us to be fair. At St James’ Park we edge the results but there isn’t much in it. In total 29 games have been contested between the two sides on home soil with United clocking up 13 wins compared to 8 for Fulham. The other 8 games have seen the points shared between the two sides.
Overall though it is Fulham who have the edge in the head-to-head stakes. Out of the 59 matches played between the two sides in all competitions, Fulham have won 26, United have won 20 with the other 13 meetings ending in a draw.
Our most recent encounter saw Fulham run out 2-1 winners at Craven Cottage in December with goals from Steve Sidwell and Hugo Rodallega either side of a cracker from Hatem Ben Arfa proving to be enough to earn victory for Martin Jol’s side.
Match stats and facts:
Fulham are on their best run since 2010 and are unbeaten in five games.
Mike Williamson could make his 100th appearance for United.
Newcastle have a 50% win ratio in games contested immediately after a Europa League match. Of the six games played after a Europa League outing, United have won three and lost three.
United now can’t match the points tally earned from home games last season. However if they win their remaining four home fixtures we’ll have managed to accrue the most home Premier League wins in a season since the 2002/2003 campaign.
Newcastle have managed just four clean sheets this season in the Premier League. Only Reading have managed fewer.
I can’t stress the importance of this game. To put it simply we need to win and nail Premier League survival at the earliest opportunity and grabbing three points against Fulham should be part of that plan.
We’re the home side and the onus is on us to go out and get the job done. We can’t approach this in a half-hearted manner. We need everyone performing and for everyone to know what is at stake in what is a crucial week for us that gives us an opportunity to effectively banish thoughts of relegation.
Howay the lads!
Date: Sunday, 7th April, 2013
Venue: St James’ Park