Demba Ba has been red-hot in front of goal this season for Newcastle. Image courtesy of skysports.com
It’s no secret Newcastle United had a tough run of games locked in over the festive season, but what easily could have been two wins against top teams turned in to a pair of demoralising losses. A last gasp Javier Hernandez goal gave Manchester United a frantic 4-3 victory on Boxing Day, while the Magpies were locked at 3-3 with Arsenal before four goals in the final 20 minutes gave the Gunners a startling 7-3 win.
Magpies manager Alan Pardew blamed the Emirates Stadium collapse on fatigue, given Arsenal’s Boxing Day match with West Ham was cancelled allowing the Londoners to come in to the game fresh, but conceding 11 goals in 180 minutes of football is still a major problem. To make matters worse, fullback Danny Simpson is now out for the next four games after breaking his toe, although fellow defender Mike Williamson is set to come back in to the line-up. As the relegation zone looms large, Pardew still has a half-dozen of his best players sidelined through injury.
Everton took an early lead against Chelsea at the weekend, but the Blues came home the stronger to run out 2-1 winners. A win there would have lifted David Moyes’s team above Chelsea on the table and extended their unbeaten run to eight games. The Toffees will be boosted for Thursday morning’s (AEDT) match by the return of influential midfielder Marouane Fellaini from a three-match suspension.
On paper Everton should be too strong, but Newcastle is a different proposition at St James’s Park. The Geordies have won five of their ten starts at home, while Everton has taken the three points in just 30 per cent of its away games. The Toffees have scored in nine out of ten matches on the road, but conversely, they’ve only kept one clean sheet away from Goodison Park and both teams have scored in all bar three of Everton’s fixtures. Given Demba Ba sits second in the EPL on the goalscoring chart, the Merseyside club’s backline will be on high alert.
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