Date: Saturday 17th Dec, 2011.
Referee: Lee Mason.
With the Magpies still lickng their wounds after a 4-2 mauling by some powerful Canaries, they return to their nest at St James’ Park to face another bird attack, this time from the Swans of Swansea.
In case you were wondering about the title, Newcastle United are not the only team to have a very promising flying Dutchman between the sticks. Tim Krul’s biggest competitor for the Netherland’s substitute goalkeeper slot (behind Roma’s Maarten Stekelenburg) is Swansea’s £1.5 million bargain buy from Utrecht, Michel Vorm. Like his Dutch compatriot, Vorm has also played a significant role in his team’s good start to the Premiership season. The unfancied Swans have certainly been no ugly ducklings in a fairly respectable 11th place, which is quite an achievement for a team on their budget and in their first season after promotion. However, as in our previous game against those other Premiership underdogs, Norwich City, it will be other areas of Pardew’s back end where attention will be focused, but more on that in the team news…
Before I end this section of the preview, it would be remiss of me not to mention that the recent tragic death of ex Magpie midfielder Gary Speed will finally be remembered with a minutes applause before the game, after it was postponed for two weeks at the request of Speed’s widow, Louise. Just to add to that, I’m sure that some readers of this blog will also take time to remember the recently deceased Steve Thompson, aka “Bowburn Mag”, who was well known on this and several other blogs, not least for his superb writing on all things Newcastle United.
Stats, previous matches etc…
This will be the first Premiership meeting between the two sides, with our last meeting at SJP taking place during our Championship season, where Chris Hughton’s Magpies savaged the Swans 3-0, with Marlon Harewood netting two goals with Peter Lovenkrands getting the other one. For the one before that you have to go way back to to an FA Cup tie on 28th January 1995. Funnily enough, that was also a 3-0 victory with Murton mean machine, Paul Kitson, scoring a hat-trick for Kevin Keegan’s entertaining side of the time.
If Swansea score against us tomorrow, it would be the first time they have done so at St James’ Park since the dark days of October 1980, when they beat us 2-1 in what was then Division 2 (now the Championship). As far as all time records go, see below:
At St James’ Park (all comps): P 15, Won 9, Drawn 3, Lost 3, Goals For 38, Goals Against 15.
All games (all comps): P 34, Won 21, Drawn 4, Lost 9, Goals For 61, Goals Against 38.
Top goalscorers this season
Newcastle United: Demba Ba (11)
Swansea City: Danny Graham (5)
So all pretty much emphatically in our favour there. Of course though, this doesn’t mean that things will be so easy this time. A couple of good statistics for Swansea (but not for us) are that Swansea have (along with Man Utd) the joint highest number of clean sheets in the Premiership with seven. Getting back to their own flying Dutchman, Michel Vorm, he has also made more saves from shots inside the box (38) than any other Premier League goalkeeper this season, so Demba Ba and the gang may have their work cut out for them this afternoon.
Whilst we are seventh in the league, four places above Swansea in eleventh, we will of course be coming into this game on the back of the abovementioned defeat against Norwich, with only one point from our last four games against the big guns of Man City, Man United and Chelsea before that. Swansea meanwhile managed a very tidy 2-0 home victory against Fulham in their last game. However like Newcastle, the Swans only managed to gain a single point in the the three before that too, losing 4-2 away to lowly Blackburn, drawing 0-0 with Aston Villa and losing by a single goal to Manchester United.
Newcastle United team news
Alan Pardew’s uncertainties about his back end will continue. Of course, centre back Steven Taylor is almost certainly out for the duration of the season with his Achilles tendon. Other top centre backs Fabricio Coloccini (thigh strain) and long term casualty Mike Williamson (ankle / foot) are still something of a doubt for the game and will face fitness tests. On a more positive note though, Williamson did play 45 minutes of a reserve game against Bolton on Tuesday which is encouraging. So we may still see full backs Danny Simpson and James Perch on duty as makeshift centre backs once again as we did when we were aerially bombarded by the Canaries of Norwich last time out. If so, this would also probably see Davide Santon stepping into Simpson’s usual right back position once again.
In the middle, Sylvain Marveaux is another long term casualty with his groin. Danny Guthrie is also another victim of the groin epidemic sweeping SJP and he’ll still be out for several weeks. Cheick Tiote’s knacked knee is still doubtful. Dan Gosling will serve the first part of his three match suspension for a straight sending off offence against Norwich, although I beleive that there may be an appeal in process to get this down to a one match ban for two yellows. Either way though, he will still be out for todays game anyway. Finally, all seems to be fine at the front unless Shola Ameobi falls over whilst getting out of bed or something like that.
Swansea City team news Well there doesn’t seem to be much happening at on the injury front for the Swans. The only piece of real news being that midfielder Joe Allen will be returning from a one match suspension.
Newcastle United (from): Tim Krul (G), Steve Harper (G), Rob Elliot (G), Danny Simpson, Ryan Taylor, Davide Santon, Shane Ferguson, James Perch, Tamas Kadar, Yohan Cabaye, Gabriel Obertan, Ben Arfa, Jonas Gutierrez, Sammy Ameobi, Mehdi Abeid, Haris Vuckic, Alan Smith, Demba Ba, Leon Best, Shola Ameobi, Peter Lovenkrands.
Doubtful: Fabricio Coloccini (Thigh strain), Cheick Tiote (knee), Mike Williamson (ankle / foot).
Injured: Steven Taylor (Achilles tendon), Sylvain Marveaux (groin), Danny Guthrie (groin).
Suspended: Dan Gosling.
Swansea (from): Michel Vorm (G), Gerhard Tremmel (G), Ashley Williams, Neil Taylor, Steven Caulker, Leon Britton, Andrea Orlandi, Danny Graham, Scott Sinclair, Nathan Dyer, Stephen Dobbie, Wayne Routledge, Garry Monk, Leroy Lita, Luke Moore, Federico Bessone, Joe Allen, Kemy Agustien, Mark Gower, Ashley Richards, Vangelis Moras.
Please accept my apologies as I won’t be able to do my usual tactical analysis / probable formations bit this week owing to the time I spent working on another blog.
What the managers are saying
Alan Pardew (Newcastle United): “We know it is an important game on Saturday and Christmas is an important period for us too. Brendan has done a super job at Swansea. They have had a great start.
“For us, it will be about making sure that when they come to our stadium they feel the impact of it.”
Brendan Rogers (Swansea City): “It is a game we are really looking forward to. We are going to a great stadium with passionate supporters, but we will have our own fans making the long journey, making a lot of noise and we go there on the back of a great result and we are looking to win the game.”
Well that just about wraps it up for this week except to say of course:
Howay the lads!