A mid-table clash – with contrasting form, that creates differing outlooks for both teams – is the best way to describe this fixture between West Brom and Newcastle United as the second half of the season gets under way.
West Brom are still searching for a replacement for their vacant managers position after the sacking of Steve Clarke and since then the Baggies have drawn all 3 matches. A run of 1 win in 10 games has seen West Brom fall down the table to 15th place and they sit precariously placed, only 2 points ahead of Fulham.
After a tricky start to the season where it looked likely Alan Pardew would face the sack, Newcastle’s run of 7 wins in 10 matches has changed the aspirations of their season to a settled side that looks likely to challenge for a European spot.
Now a mainstay in the West Brom team, Chris Brunt had his most creative match of the season against West Ham at the weekend. With 2 assists, alongside creating 4 chances overall, the Northern Irish midfielder played a big part in obtaining a point for West Brom.
Faced with an in-form Newcastle side, who have strong attacking options through their wingers and full backs, the defensive performance shown at the weekend – 2 tackles, 4 ground duels won and a clearance – will need to be repeated on New Year’s Day.
A belated start to the season after being linked to Arsenal in the summer, Cabaye has been a key performer in Newcastle’s good run of form. Playing in a more advanced midfielder role in recent weeks Cabaye has scored 3 in 4 games – to take his total to 5 for the season – but his main asset is the creativity and calmness in possession.
Deadly from set pieces, both of his assists have come from free kicks, alongside 8 other chances, while he’s also created 14 chances from open play. After a difficult game against Arsenal where the Gunners dominated and ground Newcastle down, Cabaye should be back to previous best of the Stoke match when he made 98 passes with an accuracy of 93%.
Halfway through the season, West Brom have drawn the most games in the league (9) and have won the joint least with West Ham and Sunderland (3).
If West Brom fail to beat Newcastle they would have gone over 2 months (10 matches) without a victory in the Premier League.
Loic Remy has scored just over a third of Newcastle’s league goals.
Only 2 of the 9 away league matches Newcastle have played this season have seen less than 3 goals.
Nicolas Anleka will still be available for West Brom despite his controversial celebration against West Ham being under investigation. Shane Long and Chris Brunt are expected to be fit for the match, while Anichebe remains a doubt.
The only injury concerns for Newcastle are Gutierrez and Ryan Taylor who are both long term casualties.
After defeat against Arsenal, Newcastle will bounce back with a victory against a West Brom who look shot of confidence and need the guidance of a new manager sooner rather than later.