Stoke host a high-flying Newcastle United side in their best form in 14 years tonight, hoping to end an unbeaten start to the season which has seen the Magpies rise to 4th in the Premier League.
Newcastle’s summer was far from ideal and with star men Andy Carroll & Kevin Nolan being sold, optimism was fairly low heading into the season.
But a strong team ethic has meant they’ve more than coped with the loss of their talismen.
Yohan Cabaye has taken the mantle of Kevin Nolan, making a storming start to his career in England with some great displays and long-range screamers.
Leon Best has filled the boots of Andy Carroll well, and former Stoke target Demba Ba has carried on from his exploits at West Ham with 5 goals in 9 starts so far.
Meanwhile, the Potter’s steady start in the Premier League has been built around home form, and they’ll see tonight’s game as a great opportunity to banish any demons from the midweek Carling Cup defeat at home to Liverpool.
A Stoke win will see the Potters rise to 8th, and if Newcastle manage to scrape a win at the Britannia, they’ll move above Chelsea into 3rd place, just one point behind champions Manchester United.
Tony Pulis has been far from happy with Stoke’s fixture schedule, with the Potters facing 3 matches in the space of 6 days.
After entertaining Newcastle tonight, they’ll travel to Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv on Thursday before facing Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium on Sunday.
‘We could have done without the game being on a Monday night. We could have done with it over the weekend but money talks for the powers that be who run football,’ Pulis said.
‘This is a completely new and unique season for us in respect of playing Saturday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday.
‘We’ve only had one game that kicked off at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon – that’s out of 18 matches. So we have to manage people’s expectations because there’ll be periods when we’re not going to do well, because of all sorts of reasons. You know what it’s like, people expect you to win and keep winning.’
Stoke City Team News:
Jonathan Woodgate returned to the Stoke starting line up in last Wednesday’s Carling Cup game, and he could start against his former club tonight after being sidelined with a calf injury.
However, Mamady Sidibe, one of Stoke’s greatest servants in recent times, looks set to be out for a while yet after suffering a setback in his return for the reserves.
Danny Higginbotham is edging nearer to a comeback, and Stoke fans will be delighted to hear that Ricardo Fuller is also close to a return, but this game comes to soon for both.
Player to watch: Jon Walters
The former Ipswich man has been a revelation since joining in the summer of 2010, and if anyone is to breach lines of Coloccini & co, it’ll be this man.
I expect a top performance from Walters tonight & he’ll most probably be partnered by the £10 million man, Peter Crouch, who’s bedded in well since signing from Spurs in the summer.
Newcastle Team News:
Stoke fans will be familiar with Shola Ameobi after a brief stint at Stoke in the promotion season, but the 30-year-old has been ruled out for a month with a hamstring injury.
Steven Taylor broke his nose in the 1-0 win over Wigan, but Newcastle boss Alan Pardew will want the former England under 21 international’s physicality – and there’s every chance he could be joining thousands around the country in sporting a mask tonight…
Player to watch: Yohan Cabaye
The summer signing from Lille has made a great start to Geordie life, with a string of top performances and net busting strikes.
If there’s one weakness Stoke have, it’s probably in the centre of midfield, where they sometimes lack in retaining the ball.
We’ll certainly have to impose ourselves on the game tonight, as Tiote & Cabaye will take no prisoners in the middle of the park.
Match Facts & Stats
Newcastle will come here full of confidence and their travelling army will be hopeful of getting a result tonight.
But I’m not sure if they’ve faced a test as big as Stoke away this season, and I believe the Potters will come away with the points tonight.
Stoke 1-0 Newcastle
Stoke’s next game is on Thursday, away to Israeli outfit Maccabi Tel Aviv in a Europa League Group Stage encounter.