This match is going to have little effect on the Premier League table come the end of the season. Both sides are comfortable in mid table and will be looking forward to getting to the end of the season, with a top half finish constituting a good season for both clubs. Stoke are currently one place behind their visitors on Saturday and a win would see them close the gap to three points. If you consider Newcastle’s recent form, it wouldn’t be a huge shock if Stoke finish above them at the end of the season. Mark Hughes’ men are still playing good football, and look determined to climb the league table, while Newcastle appear to be on their holidays already.
Many questioned how Stoke would deal with the managerial change, after Tony Pulis had built them into an accomplished Premier League side with a distinct brand of football, but Hughes has come in and changed the identity of the side. After his spell at QPR, people did start to criticise Hughes as a manager, but he has showed that he is a Premier League quality manager while at Stoke. They have been on a good run recently with their 3-0 defeat at Chelsea being their first since February. If they can overtake Newcastle and maybe even Southampton before the end of the season, that will be a great achievement for Mark Hughes and his side.
There are several issues at Newcastle both on and off the pitch, as often is the way at St James’ Park, but their recent form is beyond belief. Their last three matches, against teams around them in Everton, Southampton and Manchester United, teams that they should be competing with, but they were easily beaten each time, conceding 11 goals and not scoring once. The fans will be angered at the way the season has finished at St James’ Park after it appeared at one stage that an assault on Europe could be on, but the lack of ambition saw Yohan Cabaye leave the club with no replacement forthcoming. There will be big changes in the summer as it’s clear the squad needs improvement, while Alan Pardew’s job could also come under threat.
The match earlier in the season between the two clubs was filled with controversy as Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson both saw red and the home side won easily 5-1. The scoreline wasn’t a fair reflection of the game as Stoke played very well and led deservedly before the red cards. Oussama Assaidi opened the scoring, before Loic Remy scored a brace and Cabaye, Yoan Gouffran and Papiss Cisse all found the net.
Stoke are unbeaten in their last five matches at home, highlighting again why the Brittania Stadium is considered a tough place to go in the Premier League.
Newcastle have lost 7 of the 11 matches since Yohan Cabaye has left the club. They have only scored in three of these matches.
Marko Arnautovic has always been a very talented player and he is starting to show that at Stoke City. He has been given a free role at times, floating behind the striker which allows him to use his technical ability and skill to break down defences. This season he has contributed two goals and five assists, which is decent considering it is his first season in England and he is playing for a mid table side. His attitude has often been a flaw in his game, but it appears this season has been a turning point in his career as he has avoided controversy and focused on his football. He is still young at the age of 24 and could go on to achieve great things if he continues his current application. He will cause Newcastle problems this weekend, as they have been vulnerable lately and a player like the Austrian can find space between the lines, which will trouble the defence of Newcastle as shown by his total chances created of 34. He also has a great ability to play through balls, which could cut open the defence for runners to get in behind the Newcastle back four.
Despite the horrendous ending to the season, Cheick Tiote will be one of the few players to emerge with credit this season as he has returned to his best form and the Ivorian could be named captain in the summer if Fabricio Coloccini leaves as expected. His performance has dipped in recent matches, but the lack of creativity in the side has seen the midfielder play a more attacking role, which leaves the defence exposed. He needs a strong finish to the season to secure his place in the Ivory Coast World Cup side. This weekend, he needs to return to his natural role in front of the back four to prevent Newcastle shipping upwards of three goals again. The Newcastle side are well equipped to go to Stoke and take three points, but they will need their defensive midfielder to have a good game and dominate the Stoke midfield. If Newcastle are to play counter attacking football, they will need the Ivorian to make key interceptions to allow the side to break quickly. His total interceptions of 57 shows he is capable of doing so.
Stephen Ireland has been suffering from an illness, but is expected to be a part of the match day squad. Charlie Adam is a doubt after getting a facial injury. If he does feature, he is expected to be wearing a protective mask to prevent any further injury. Oussama Assaidi and Robert Huth are not expected to feature and both may not play a part before the end of the season, the former is more likely to make a return before May.
Tim Krul could make his return this weekend after missing the last two matches. Mathieu Debuchy and Loic Remy have returned to training, but they won’t make their return this weekend. Moussa Sissoko is expected to make his return next week. The status of both Sammy Ameobi and Gabby Obertan remains unknown, but neither will feature this weekend.
This match is likely to be a typical end of season match as neither side need to pick up points, as they will both be playing Premier League football next season, and neither have any chance of qualifying for European football. Newcastle need a performance after their recent results, another convincing defeat will do Alan Pardew no favours as the fans are already turning on him. Stoke have been playing decent football recently, so I’d expect them to get a result, especially at home.
Stoke City 2-0 Newcastle United
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