Referee: Andrew Hall (West Midlands).
Sunday’s away trip to the new Cardiff City Stadium sees Newcastle United missing Championship player of the month, Shola Ameobi, along with Andy Carroll and Jonas Guitierrez. However, despite the lack of senior strikers, young Nile Ranger has started to come to the fore with an excellent performance in our last game, and another one with the England under 19s during the week, where he scored and had another effort disallowed. He is widely expected to start as a ‘Lone Ranger’ (sorry) at the front, probably with Kevin Nolan dropping in behind in a supporting link role.
Holding midfielder, Nicky Butt, should finally be returning to the squad after his thumb problems, though it is doubtful whether the returning Peter Lovenkrands will be ‘match fit’ enough to start, though he may be on the bench, possibly getting a stint later on to bring him up to speed.
So apart from Nolan, the rest of the midfield will almost certainly be four of the following: Alan Smith, Nicky Butt, Danny Guthrie, Ryan Taylor and Joey Barton. At the back, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini and Jose Enrique seem to be pretty definite. Manchester United loanee, Danny Simpson also seems to be a probable pick, though manager, Chris Hughton could always plump for versatile Ryan Taylor at right back, leaving room for another misfielder. However, the absence of key winger, Gutierrez, would suggest that Taylor is needed on the right wing.
Cardiff are currently third in the Championships with ten points, and along with Newcastle, West Brom and the Smoggies, are seen as promotion favourites. Their previous results in the Championship are:
Cardiff 4 – 0 Scunthorpe United,
Cardiff 1 – 1 Blackpool,
Cardiff 3 – 1 Plymouth Argyle,
Cardiff 3 – 0 Bristol City
Cardiff 3 – 1 Bristol Rovers
Cardiff 0 – 2 Doncaster Rovers
So, a good start in general for the ‘Bluebirds’, but a disappointing capitulation against Doncaster Rovers in their last game gives Newcastle great hope against the previously undefeated Cardiff squad. Cardiff’s man to look out for will undoubtedly be old friend, Michael Chopra, who of course is a Tynesider who played for we for several years, largely as an understudy to bigger beasts such as Alan Shearer, before defecting to the more primitive side of the North East. Since moving again to the Bluebirds, his form has been excellent, with eight goals this season so far.
Newcastle United’s Championship Manager of the Month, Chris Hughton sees the Cardiff crunch as Toon’s toughest test yet. In an interview with Tyneside’s ‘The Chronic‘ he said:
“I’m expecting a really tough game, probably our toughest.
“That’s no disrespect to anybody else we’ve played, but you always focus on the next task in hand, which for us is Cardiff City.
“I know they have been very good at their new stadium and that their fans will demand a performance from their players.
“That is another factor, but for our players it’s a chance to play in a great atmosphere.
“Our approach will be to continue what we’ve already demonstrated in previous games.”
Meanwhile, Cardiff City’s manager, Davy Jones said this of the upcoming clash:
“I feel this is probably the biggest league game this club has had for many, many years.
“Newcastle are a massive club. Everybody talks about us becoming a big club, but they had 44,000 fans in the Championship, that is unbelievable.
“We are playing for me a Premiership football club still.
“I would put Newcastle probably as one of the top four or five teams in this division.
“They are top right now and they are there to be shot at. We don’t want a gap to develop. we want to close the gap.
“The only people talking about problems off the pitch for Newcastle have been the media. People in the game did not think they would have a bad start.
“When you get relegated you have to try to get back as quick as you can and their fans were never going to let them go out on a football pitch and lay down and die.
“When you look at the squad they have and the players they have kept, it is too big a club and their players have too much pride.”