Date: Saturday 19 April 2014.
Venue: St James’ Park.
Referee: Chris Foy.
UK TV: None.
Newcastle host Swansea at St James’ Park this weekend as both teams seek to improve on a bad run of form.
Newcastle have looked like a team already on their holidays lately. The rubber alligator is on the roof rack of their Bentley Continentals, the caravan is hitched to the tow-bar and they’re halfway down the M5 on the way to Cornwall. Or at least that’s the way it seems if recent performances are anything to go by.
But the combination of a home fixture against a team also amidst a poor run of form and the return of some key players from injury might give us half a chance of some points this weekend.
Allegedly, the target Mike Ashley set for Alan Pardew this season was a top ten finish. We’re currently in ninth place, three points ahead of Stoke and even if they overtake us we’ll finish tenth and achieve Ashley’s target. However, thanks to a victory against Everton at Goodison Park this week, Crystal Palace are only six points behind us in 11th place and in fine form having won their last four games on the trot, including a creditable win against Chelsea. So a top ten finish is by no means guaranteed yet.
I can’t imagine we’ll get much from our remaining away fixtures against Arsenal and Liverpool, so we really need to win our two remaining home games against Cardiff on May 3rd and Swansea this weekend if we want that top ten finish. There is still something to play for.
The league form for both Newcastle and Swansea from the last eight games looks like this:
I’ve also added the recent form of Stoke and Crystal Palace – our main competition for a top ten finish – to the above table.
We’re currently second bottom of the Premier League Form Guide, with only Sunderland below us, and Swansea are 17th. Crystal Palace and Stoke are third and fourth respectively.
With an away fixture at Arsenal next, failing to pick up any points this weekend could possibly mean six straight defeats in a row before we host Cardiff on May 3rd. It isn’t just that we’ve lost a lot of games recently, it’s the manner in which we’ve lost them. Last weekend’s loss to Stoke was the least damaging of the lot but in the three games before that we’ve just capitulated, conceding eleven goals in the process.
It’s just as well we had a decent start to the season because we’re in relegation form at the moment, but let’s hope we can put on a better display against Swansea.
Alan Pardew will serve the last week of his touchline ban this weekend and he’ll be back in the hot seat for the final three games of the season, from where he’ll be better able to dispense his tactical acumen and motivational talents.
Both Matthew Debuchy and Loic Remy will be available for selection this weekend after recovering from a groin injury and calf injury respectively. Pardew said:
“It will be a big boost for us in terms of their experience at this level and their quality. It’s nice to see them back. With the World Cup not far around the corner, it’s important that they get the time in now.”
But Pardew refused to confirm whether or not they’d start on Saturday.
I have read that Ben Arfa is injured and out of contention for this game with some reports suggesting he’s actually back in France at the moment, although I’m not sure how true those stories are. Moussa Sissoko is likely to miss this game as he’s still recovering from a hamstring injury and Davide Santon is apparently unlikely to play again this season after suffering a recurrence of his hamstring injury during training.
Swansea will perform a late fitness test on Michu to see if he’s recovered from a double-whammy injury affecting his ankle and shoulder. Defender Chico Flores is however definitely out as he starts a two-match ban for his sending off during Swansea’s game against Chelsea.
What The Managers Say
Alan Pardew had this to say ahead of the game:
“If you lose four on the trot as Newcastle manager it’ll always be difficult. We all have to shoulder the responsibility, none more so than myself.
“I hope the fans give the team great backing.
“I hope we can put in a performance that helps because it goes hand in hand.
“Swansea are a great footballing side. They keep the ball and frustrate you. We have to be patient and take our chances.”
Meanwhile Gary Monk has been attempting to diffuse and determine the source of rumours about player bust-ups:
“I have a good idea of the source it’s come from to try and unsettle us, but you could see on Sunday how unified the group are, so there are no problems.
“I’ll tell you the truth, the incident was blown out of all proportion. It was handbags – all over and done with, no problems and dealt with at the time. Then it goes and gets blown out of proportion. In a training environment, with 20 men working hard with intensity, these things happen. It could be anything – a mistimed tackle and it’s handbags. But it’s dealt with there and then and we move on.
“The source mentioned stuff that showed it clearly came from the outside because some of it was bizarre. People will try and unsettle you, try and find an edge, but this group’s reaction shows how together they are and how morale should be.“
The last five meetings between the two clubs have been:
Swansea 3-0 Newcastle (December 2013)
Swansea 1-0 Newcastle (March 2013)
Newcastle 1-2 Swansea (November 2012)
Swansea 0-2 Newcastle (April 2012)
Newcastle 0-0 Swansea (December 2011)
Historically, we’ve won 22, drawn 5 and lost 12 of the 39 matches we’ve played against Swansea in all competitions. In the Premier League, we’ve played Swansea 5 times, won 1, drawn 1 and lost 3, with our last win coming in April 2012 when we won 2-0 with both goals being scored by Papiss Cisse. You may remember his second goal:
If only he could find those boots again.
Happy Easter and howay the lads!