These two clubs have established themselves in the Premier League since both were promoted from the Championship in the 2009/10 season, however, they have done it in completely different ways. Newcastle have always been unpredictable but even they shocked people with the appointment of Joe Kinnear as Director of Football in the summer to join their already unstable board, who have done many things to upset supporters. Meanwhile, West Brom are one of the best run clubs in the country under Jeremy Peace. Their transfer strategies differ also as West Brom look for more home grown talent in the lower leagues with a few foreigners thrown in, whereas Newcastle buy from Europe, and in particular France. Both clubs are in the position that they have to look to buy players who will have a sell on value.
The home side have been in great form recently with three consecutive Premier League victories, which has taken them to eighth place in the table, above Tottenham Hotspur. Incredibly, the North East side are only 4 points off Liverpool in second place and a win on Saturday could take them into the top four if other results go their way. They were disappointing last season but people shouldn’t rule out the possibility of Alan Pardew’s men finishing high in the table like they did in 2011/12. The Newcastle squad is stronger now and given the inconsistencies of the top six, they could be dark horses for a European place. Newcastle top scorer Loic Remy has come out this week and spoken about the Champions League, so it’s clear that the players believe they can go one step further than they did two years ago.
West Brom come into the game on the back of two consecutive draws. They will feel hard done by after being denied the three points at Chelsea, due to a wrongly awarded penalty, and only getting a point on Monday despite dominating Aston Villa for the majority of the match. They have only lost once in their last nine matches, so they won’t prove to be an easy match for in form Newcastle. They are currently sitting in 11th place but if they start converting draws into wins, then they will rise up the table in no time. Steve Clarke has made his side very hard to beat and that is a quality that is appreciated in the Premier League. It could be even more important this season given that most Premier League sides won’t be showing much consistency.
This match will be won in the middle of the park as both sides have extremely good central midfield pairings. Newcastle will be lining up with Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye while West Brom have Claudio Yacob and Youssouf Mulumbu. Both sides also have an in form striker with the home side having the third leading goalscorer in the league, Remy, while West Brom have Shane Long who has scored 3 in his last 2 matches. It’s certainly going to be an interesting encounter between two sides who have been in good form.
Only Lyon have more goals by French players than Newcastle in the major European leagues this season. Both Newcastle and Marseille have had 16 goals scored by Frenchmen, while Lyon have had 20 goals scored by players from France. Only one Premier League goal has been scored by a non-French player for Newcastle, which was Paul Dummett against Liverpool.
Shane Long’s brace against Aston Villa was his first in the Premier League. It was a long wait for the Irishman as it came in his 75th appearance in the league.
Yoan Gouffran will be key for Newcastle on Saturday in the 4-4-2 formation that Pardew is using at the moment. He joined in January as a striker but he has really made the left midfield position his own. He has surprised Newcastle fans with his incredible work rate, and the Frenchman is often seen in the left back position protecting Davide Santon. People expected a lazy striker when he signed, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. He has made 13 tackles at a success rate of 84.62% which is great for an attacking player. He has also made 14 interceptions, again showing his influence defensively. Many may compare him to team-mate Jonas Gutierrez who is a defensive winger with exceptional work rate, but Gouffran offers more going forward. The former Bordeaux striker has assisted twice and scored three goals so far this season, while Gutierrez only managed one goal last season without assisting once. On Saturday, Gouffran will be up and down the left wing and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he pops up with another goal.
Shane Long has started to score again with 3 in his last two matches and he will be keen to keep up the good form against Newcastle. He has caused Fabricio Coloccini problems in the past so he will be looking forward to going up against the Newcastle captain this weekend. His shooting accuracy (50%) and chance conversion (25%) are decent for a striker. If he keeps this up throughout the season, then surely more goals will come. Long has secured a starting berth again at West Brom, despite nearly being sold to Hull in the summer. His first goal against Aston Villa showed the quality that he possesses with a fantastic first touch and a cool finish. His big strength is his pace and that will cause lots of problems on Saturday.
Mathieu Debuchy will return after a one match ban at right-back. The big selection problem for Pardew is at centre-back as Mike Williamson and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa have started to form an impressive partnership with clean sheets against Chelsea and Tottenham. However, Coloccini has to play as captain, especially considering that he returned against Norwich as Yanga-Mbiwa was shifted out to right-back. There is only expected to be one change, as Pardew is happy to keep with the winning formula of the 4-4-2, with Shola Ameobi and Loic Remy leading the line. Jonas Gutierrez could feature at some stage after making his return to training last week. Vurnon Anita, Papiss Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa are pushing for a starting berth but they are expected to start from the bench on Saturday.
Liam Ridgewell has returned to training this week ahead of the weekend so he could return at left back. Billy Jones and Scott Sinclair could return after both have been sidelined with hamstring injuries. Zoltan Gera, Ben Foster and George Thorne remain on the injury list. Nicolas Anelka and Saido Berahino will be pushing for attacking places after missing out on Monday against Aston Villa. Stephane Sessegnon has had mixed fortunes at St James’ Park, having been sent off two seasons ago, before last season scoring in Sunderland’s 3-0 derby day win. He is expected to start on Saturday so he will get an interesting welcome from the Toon Army.
It will be a close match with both teams likely to score. Newcastle are favourites given that it is at St James’ Park, but I really can’t see them winning four in a row. West Brom seem to be this year’s draw specialists and I expect that to continue on Saturday.