The Premier League returns after the shocks of the FA Cup fourth round and both of these clubs had a break as neither got their way through the third round. This is the early kick off on Saturday and Hull desperately need to start finding their form as they are in huge danger of getting relegated. Meanwhile their opponents, Newcastle, will be treading water from now until the end of the season, with Premier League survival being their only aim after the appointment of John Carver as head coach until the end of the season. Steve Bruce has questioned the decision of Lee Charnley and the Newcastle board of waiting until the summer to appoint their next boss, stating that they could still be dragged into the relegation battle. John Carver will be keen to show Bruce and the rest of his doubters that he is good enough to lead Newcastle until May and prove to the Newcastle board that he is a genuine contender for the full time post.
Hull were seen as a side that should finish in mid table after some impressive signings in January. However Steve Bruce failed to get the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Gaston Ramirez, Abel Hernandez, Michael Dawson and Andy Robertson firing in the same side. Meanwhile the performances of Curtis Davies, Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore and Ahmed Elmohamady have all dropped off this season and Hull have looked one of the poorer sides in the division with relegation a real concern. They are currently in 18th position and Steve Bruce is under severe pressure to turn this around. They need to have a good month over February or they could find themselves cut adrift as the likes of Burnley and QPR have showed signs that they can get out of it.
Newcastle appointed John Carver as head coach until the end of the season this week. Despite a winless record as caretaker manager, Newcastle played well in spells and Carver will be keen to show the footballing world that he needs to be taken seriously. He will be in the running for the permanent position in the summer, but Newcastle are more interested in coaches like Frank de Boer, Thomas Tuchel and Remi Garde at the moment. Newcastle are in an odd position as they languish in mid table. It’s unlikely they will qualify for Europe and they need to remain cautious of the bottom three. This Saturday offers Carver the perfect opportunity to get off to a good start and move his side closer to survival.
In their first meeting of the season, the sides drew 2-2 after Hull took a two goal lead through Nikica Jelavic and Mo Diame. Papiss Cisse then scored two late goals on his return from injury to earn Newcastle a point. In the corresponding fixture last year, Newcastle ran out 4-1 winners due to two Moussa Sissoko goals and a goal each from Loic Remy and Vurnon Anita. Curtis Davies scored a consolation for Hull. This match was most famous for Alan Pardew’s headbutt on David Meylor.
Abel Hernandez and Nikica Jelavic are both closing in on a return to action, but a starting place may come too soon this weekend. Alex Bruce, Andy Robertson, Mo Diame, Liam Rosenior, James Chester and Robert Snodgrass will all be missing this weekend. Hull are still in the mire when it comes to injuries, but it has given chances to the likes of Tom Ince and David Meyler to show their worth to the squad.
Siem de Jong is close to returning but this fixture will come too soon. Davide Santon and Gabriel Obertan are back in contention and could start this weekend. Paul Dummett will be missing with a hamstring injury, so Mike Williamson will start. Rolando Aarons and Ryan Taylor are both returning to action in a couple of weeks time. Papiss Cisse is in the squad after returning from the African Cup of Nations. Steven Taylor remains on the long term injury list.
Hull City have only managed to win two home games all season, with the wins coming against Crystal Palace and Everton. They need to improve their record at home if they are to stay up.
Newcastle have only won twice in their last ten league matches, while they have conceded on average two per game over this period.
Tom Huddlestone has been the driving force in Hull’s midfield for 18 months now and they will be relying on his quality a lot over the next few months as the business end of the season arrives. He hasn’t really had the impact that he did last season, with no goals and only one assist to his name, but he will be keen to step up his performances now as his club need him. His pass completion rate of 80.2% shows that he is still excellent in possession and that will be important as Hull need to keep the ball and start to dominate games, especially at home. They have struggled in their home fixtures this season. Starting from Saturday, they need to begin to control games at home and Huddlestone’s quality and his passing range will be key to that. They have missed Mo Diame in the middle of the park recently, but Huddlestone has the ability to bring a similar drive to the midfield if he is playing well. If Hull are to steer clear of danger, they need to get Huddlestone back on form.
Ayoze Perez has been one of the finds of the season after impressing observers such as Sir Alex Ferguson with his performances for Newcastle. He provides a different option up front as he likes to come deep and run with the ball at his feet as he has the ability to skip past challenges and create chances for his side. He has shown that he is ready for the Premier League after scoring in stadiums like the Emirates and White Hart Lane, while he also scored the winner at home to Liverpool. Newcastle saw the Spaniard as a player for the future, but he is certainly one for the here and now. Interest is growing in the 21 year old, but he needs to focus on performing consistently for Newcastle with the regular football in the Premier League crucial for his development. He has scored five goals for Newcastle this season, with the ability to produce something from nothing which will be important, especially in tight games like these.
I’m not expecting a great game, with Hull likely to be playing scrappy football as they are desperate to get the three points. Newcastle are very effective on the counter attack with Moussa Sissoko integral to that, which will make Hull wary of committing too many players forward. Neither side has been scoring many goals of late and that is likely to continue. The return of Papiss Cisse could be the catalyst for Newcastle to return to winning ways and inflict more misery onto Steve Bruce.