Date: Monday, 9th April 2012
Referee: Mike Jones
UK TV: None
Not only does the Easter break in the United Kingdom guarantee you bunny rabbits, egg shaped chocolate and poor public transport, it also guarantees you that the F.A. will try and squeeze as many games together as possible. Much like the Christmas period where most country’s take the opportunity to have a rest, the geniuses at the football association have scheduled their latest orgy of footballing fixtures, with on fire Newcastle United hosting Owen Coyle’s improving Bolton Wanderers at St James’ Park for a 3pm kick-off on Monday.
There is no scheduled UK broadcast of the match, with Sky not opting to make it five live NUFC showings in a row. So unless you’re heading to St James’, it will be time to scour the internet again for some links, unless you’d rather listen to it via BBC Radio Newcastle… Whatever floats your boat really.
Newcastle are on the back of four victories in a row, a sequence which was last achieved in April 2006, when Glenn Roeder saved us from Graeme Souness’ reign of terror, and his inspired Magpies produced a late charge to finish 7th and qualify for our last European adventure via the Europa League. Actually it was the UEFA Cup back then, but sort of the same competition in theory. Newcastle are currently sitting very pretty in the table having, at the time of writing, overtaken Chelsea to take fifth place. Though as I sit here and try to predict the future, I’m going to assume we’ll be heading into this match back in 6th position, unless of course Wigan pick up an unlikely point or three at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon…
The Trotters of Bolton are currently looking over their shoulder with concern as they currently sit in 16th position, one point away from the dreaded red zone of the Premier League. Bolton have however picked up three victories in a row, beating fellow relegation candidates QPR, Blackburn and most recently, Wolves. This sequence of vital wins landed manager, Owen Coyle, the prestigious ‘Manager of the Month’ accolade for March. On Saturday they host Fulham at home, looking to extend themselves away from the drop zone.
Magpies vs Trotters History At St James’ Park
Looking through our Premier League past, I can’t really find a match that really jumps out at me. Our 2007 – 2008 encounter which ended in a 0-0 draw, was the first match of Kevin Keegan‘s managerial return. After such high expectation of his return it seemed almost inevitable it would end as a dire stalemate! The 2008 – 2009 season, which started rather well with a draw at Old Trafford, saw Bolton travel to St James’ Park for our first home league game that season. Kevin Nolan lined up for Wanderers that day and incidentally it was he who took a penalty for Bolton but saw it saved by Shay Given. A Michael Owen header eventually secured the three points for United in a 1-0 win. Due to relegation we didn’t meet again until last season, where Kevin Nolan, now clad in black and white, scored for the Magpies with on loan Daniel Sturridge firing in the equaliser for Bolton. This match also saw Ryan Taylor sent off for a stupid lunge at Johan Elmander early in the second half.
Magpies / Trotters Connections
Focussing on the most recent players to don the colours of both teams is of course a player who captained both sides, Kevin Nolan. Current Magpie Danny Guthrie enjoyed a loan spell at Bolton from Liverpool during the 2007 – 2008 season, before signing for United the following year. The late, great Gary Speed also captained both sides, and the not so great Sam Allardyce managed both teams. Opinion on San Allardyce’s reign is still a little divided by some as a lot of fans think he wasn’t given enough time. My opinion of his time in the Magpies hot seat is likened to what it must feel like to stick your finger into your eye and twirl it around your brain. For six months.
Squads / Probable formationAt the time of Writing, chief enforcer, Cheick Tioté, has ruled himself out of the game, citing it as too risky. Bearing in mind it’s a hamstring injury, it’s probably not worth risking losing him for a potential 4 weeks. Yohan Cabaye picked up a slight knock during our 2-0 victory at the Liberty Stadium, but is expected to be available for Monday. Captain, Fabricio Coloccini, could be ready to play, but along with Tioté I have my doubts that he will. Thinking logically, United have a 12 day break before our next match versus Stoke City after the Bolton game, and I’d imagine the sensible thing to do would be to allow both players to get 100% fit. Couple that thought with how brilliantly James Perch has stepped into the team alongside Mike Williamson, I wouldn’t be surprised to not see either Tioté or Coloccini until the Stoke game. The most obvious absentees for Monday are Steven Taylor, Sylvain Marveaux, Sammy Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands. Danny Guthrie and Haris Vučkić are likely to remain absent, and it seems nobody has a clue what is wrong with Gabriel Obertan (fitness wise)…
Bolton still have Fabrice Muamba unavailable, but thankfully he is on the right road to recovery. Stuart Holden is absent through a knee injury, and Chung-Yong Lee is still out through a broken leg.
Newcastle (from): Tim Krul (G), Rob Elliot (G), Danny Simpson (D), Ryan Taylor (D, M), Davide Santon (D, M), James Tavernier (D), Shane Ferguson D, M), Fabricio Coloccini(D, C, ?), James Perch (D, M), Mike Williamson (D), Tamás Kádár (D), Yohan Cabaye (M), Cheick Tioté (M, ?), Danny Guthrie(M, ?), Hatem Ben Arfa (M, F), Jonas Gutierrez (M, D), Dan Gosling (M), Mehdi Abeid (M), Shola Ameobi (F), Demba Ba (F), Papiss Cisse (F).
Bolton (from): Ádám Bogdán (G), Jussi Jääskeläinen (G), Marcos Alonso (D, M), Grétar Steinsson (D), David Wheater (D), Dedryck Boyata (D), Zat Knight (D), Tim Ream (D), Michael Ricketts (F), Nigel Reo-Coker (M), Mark Davies (M), Ivan Klasnić (F), Ryo Miyaichi (F), David N’Gog (F), Martin Petrov (M), Joshua Vela (M), Chris Eagles (M), Tuncay (M, F), Kevin Davies (F), Marvin Sordell (F), Darren Pratley (M), Robbie Blake (M, F).
I should imagine that Newcastle will line up 4-3-3, but picking the personnel is slightly more tricky. I’m not going to pick a team in which I would like to see, merely who I think Pardew will pick. As I said above, I’d be surprised to see Coloccini or Tioté in the starting line up. If Coloccini does play, James Perch could be drafted into centre midfield. Danny Guthrie’s potential absence doesn’t help matters, so assuming Coloccini is out, I expect to see the back four you can see in the formation to your left. With Tioté and Guthrie likely to sit this one out, I expect that Dan Gosling will get his first start since his last one against Norwich City at Carrow Road, where he was red carded. Expect the deadly trio of Ben Arfa, Cissé and Ba to spearhead United’s attack. I can’t see us altering our game plan too much in comparison to our matches versus Liverpool, West Brom and Norwich, but it will be a lot more different than our last game against Swansea where we allowed them to keep the ball, knowing that if we stifle their route to goal, it didn’t matter how much they passed it around the middle of the park. Bolton are more physical and obviously compared to Swansea, a lot more direct in their approach, meaning this game will be a difficult test for our back line. Not only that, Bolton have picked up some vital wins lately, and with this being on paper one of our slightly less difficult matches, Pardew must keep the players focused to avoid complacency.
Anything other than a Toon win would be a massive disappointment considering the position we find ourselves in. Looking at our three remaining home fixtures, we must pick up wins against Bolton and Stoke to maintain our amazing charge for Europe. Man City make up our last home fixture with three tricky ties away from St James’ Park following at Wigan, Chelsea and Everton. Monday, in my opinion, is a must win game, as with a top six finish pretty much secured, there is still a chance we could fail to qualify for Europe if Everton defeat Liverpool and reach the F.A. Cup final next week. This would mean that the 6th place finish may not be enough to qualify for the Europa League. There is however an abundance of potential outcomes in the race for Europe pending on all kind of things that I don’t have time to get into detail. Either way this has been a terrific season, and I feel very proud of my team and staff.
So a ‘must win game’ awaits Newcastle United Monday afternoon, not only for the reasons listed above, but also because I’m attending the match! Hope you all have a great Easter.
Howay The Lads!