As they languish in 13th place in the Premier League table, Newcastle United have not enjoyed a successful season. Despite their Europa League performances, the Magpies have never been able to put together a meaningful run of form all season, as they have fallen at the hands of both the teams around them, as well as the league’s big boys.
The weekend’s defeat against Wigan dented confidence, and the horrific injury suffered by Massadio Haidara is one that could halt Newcastle’s recent surge in form. Add to that the injuries suffered by Mathieu Debuchy and Davide Santon this week, and the treatment room is once again becoming the busiest place at St James’ Park.
Next up for Alan Pardew’s side is a trip to Premier League champions Manchester City, who have an excellent record against Newcastle. The Geordies have never won at the Etihad Stadium, with their last away point against the Citizens coming at Maine Road in the 2000-2001 season, when a certain Alan Shearer scored the only goal of the game.
With another chance to move into the top half of the Premier League table at stake, now seems like an appropriate time to look at Newcastle’s performances against the other top sides in the league, as we try and predict what will happen on March 30th.
Alan Pardew had to pick from an injury hit squad and head to Old Trafford and the Emirates Stadium, with just three days rest in between the two games. With his side already in shocking form, it looked an impossible task for Newcastle to come away with anything.
However, despite living up to expectations and being soundly beaten by both sides, Newcastle actually played some impressive football in both games, causing problems for their opponents.
The Boxing Day clash against Man United, which ended 4-3 to Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, saw Newcastle have a go at the multiple-time Premier League champions and attack them from the off. Taking the lead three times through James Perch, an own goal from Jonny Evans and Papiss Cisse's strike, the Toon were only let down by their soft defence. Eventually conceding a late goal from Javier Hernandez, Newcastle was resigned to let their hard work go down the drain.
Despite the defeat, Newcastle fans were happy to see their side go and attack strong opponents, rather than sit back and wait to be picked apart by the likes of Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs. It was one of the best attacking performances of the season and had their defence been as strong as it looks now; they could have held on for the win.
Three days later in London, the Magpies adopted the same policy and attacked Arsenal with all they had. With the Gunners weak defence always liable to conceding goals, Newcastle always had a chance. The pattern of the 90 minutes was a complete mirror to the Man United game, with Newcastle fighting back from a goal down on three occasions, before running out of gas and conceding four goals without reply. It ended 7-3 and made Pardew realise he needed reinforcements to patch up his leaky side.
After the January spending spree, Newcastle’s next encounter with one of the league’s top sides was when Chelsea visited St James’ Park. Another goal-fest ensued and thanks to Moussa Sissoko’s heroics, the Magpies recorded the most memorable win of their season.
The 3-2 win over the Blues signalled Newcastle’s upturn in form, setting them up to pull themselves clear of the relegation battle and putting them in a position to attack the top half of the table, ahead of the clash with Man City.
With Roberto Mancini’s side destined to lose their status as champions, Newcastle’s strategy of attacking the top teams could be in order again, as City’s defence has been off the pace all season. The confidence gained from the win over Chelsea, as well as the dramatic last-gasp win over Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League, will stand Newcastle in good stead as they look to record another morale-boosting win over one of the Premier League’s top boys.