Newcastle welcome league leaders Arsenal to the St. James’ Park aiming to extend their unbeaten home run to seven matches at the expense of yet another big scalp on Sunday.
The hosts have already beaten Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United this season, and taken points off Liverpool as well, and the Gunners will do well to avoid slipping up on a ground where Newcastle have only lost once all season.
Arsene Wenger’s charges have seen their title charge falter in recent weeks, as their five-point lead at the summit was wiped out after a three match winless-streak against Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea. A 3-1 victory away to West Ham on Boxing Day however not only got their title hunt back on track, it also allowed them to regain top spot from Liverpool who were beaten 2-1 away to Manchester City.
The Londoners will know that anything other than a win here may see them fall as far back as third on the log should other results go against them, while a win would enable them put distance between themselves and the chasing pack of Liverpool and Chelsea, who face off at the Stamford Bridge later the same day.
Newcastle however are the form team of the Premier League at the moment, with just one defeat in their last nine matches. Their 5-1 demolition of Stoke City meant that the Tyneside club have now won seven of their last nine league matches, and they are now unbeaten at home since losing 3-2 to Hull City back in September. This upturn in form has seen the Magpies rise from twelfth up to sixth over the last two months, and a win over the Londoners here could see them get into the top four should other results go their way as well.
Arsenal will look to their impressive away record to carry them over the line on Sunday, as the Gunners have picked up 19 points from nine away matches, scoring a league-high 20 goals away from home. This record also suggests that a clean sheet for Newcastle goal-keeper Tim Krul will be highly unlikely, as Arsenal have only failed to score once away from home in this season’s league campaign. In fact, Arsenal have scored at least three goals in their last three away league matches.
Another record that is titled slightly in Arsenal’s favour is their recent head-to-head record against Sunday’s opponents, as the North London outfit have only lost once in their last six meetings, and are unbeaten in 14 of their last 15 encounters as well. Arsenal will have fond memories of this ground from last season, as a 1-0 win on the final day clinched fourth spot for them ahead of fierce rivals Spurs.
Go back two years however, and an Arsenal side that was 4-0 up by halftime famously imploded after a sending off for midfielder Abou Diaby in the second half; leading to Newcastle scoring four goals in a thrilling 4-4 draw. The Emirates faithful will much rather remember last season’s blockbuster, where a Theo Walcott hat-trick inspired Arsenal to a crushing 7-3 win over a hapless Newcastle. While a repeat of this goal-fest will be highly unlikely tomorrow, we can be sure of another dramatic encounter with crucial Premier League points at stake.
Alan Pardew will be glad to welcome back midfield enforcer Tiote from suspension for this game, while the pacy Jonas Gutierrez will face a late fitness test to determine whether he will play any part tomorrow. Defender Ryan Taylor will however miss out entirely.
Arsene Wenger will also be glad to welcome back Jack Wilshere from his two-match suspension, especially seeing as midfield prodigy and Gunners’ top-scorer Aaron Ramsey limped off against West Ham with a thigh strain.
Lukas Podolski made a goal-scoring return to action against West Ham, and may be in contention for a starting berth should the manager decide to rest Mesut Ozil, who has featured in every Premier League game since signing for Arsenal. Abou Diaby and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remain long-term absentees, while centre-back Laurent Koscielny faces a late fitness test.
Newcastle: T. Krul- D. Santon, F. Coloccini, Williamson, M. Debuchy- C. Tiote, Y. Cabaye- M. Sissoko, L. Remy, Y. Gouffran- S. Ameobi
Arsenal: W. Szczesny- B. Sagna, P. Mertesacker, T. Vermaelen, K. Gibbs- M. Arteta, J. Wilshere- T. Walcott, M. Ozil, S. Cazorla- O. Giroud
There have been six goals scored in the last ten minutes of the last six matches between these two sides, and three red cards (all to Arsenal) as well, but who will come out trumps in a usually chaotic fixture?
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