Arsenal will look to return to the top of the Premier League table when they make the trip to St. James' Park to take on Newcastle United on Sunday.
Both teams won their Boxing Day fixtures, the Gunners taking out West Ham 3-1 and the Magpies hammering nine-man Stoke City 5-1.
Although playing two matches in the space of three days can be tricky, it gives each club a chance to build a lot of momentum in a short amount of time.
It's important for both Arsenal and Newcastle to take the points on Sunday, as the Gunners are trying to regain first spot in the league while Newcastle could move ahead of Everton into fifth.
Considering the attacking flair on both teams, this match should be entertaining from start to finish.
When: Sunday, Dec. 29, at 8:30 a.m. ET/1:30 p.m. GMT
Where: St. James' Park, Newcastle, England
TV: NBC Sports Network (US); Sky Sports 1 (UK)
Odds (via Bloomberg Sports)
Newcastle Win: 33.3 percent
Arsenal Win: 41.1 percent
Draw: 25.7 percent
Top Storyline: Can Newcastle Spring the Surprise?
Newcastle are the kind of club that can beat just about anybody on their best day. The Magpies have wins against Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham, while they drew with Liverpool despite being down to 10 men for the majority of the match.
However, Newcastle have had some disappointing results, namely a draw with West Ham and losses to Sunderland, Hull City and Swansea.
Consistency has long been the problem for Newcastle—they could be a genuine top-four contender if they weren't such a Jekyll-and-Hyde side.
Much of Newcastle's success this season has been a result of Yohan Cabaye. The French midfielder has been fantastic, scoring five goals and notching two assists. He's often set the tone for the Magpies' attack with his metronomic passing.
Alan Pardew is of the opinion that holding on to Cabaye was a better move this summer than Arsenal signing Mesut Ozil, via Luke Edwards of The Telegraph:
It’s not strange Arsenal were interested in Yohan, but in the end they went with Özil. That’s been particularly good business for them, but I think the better piece of business was us keeping Yohan Cabaye.
Coming in to this weekend's play, Arsenal were tied with the best away record, picking up 19 out of a possible 27 points. They're also one of six clubs that maintained a positive goal differential.
There's little doubt that Newcastle will need Cabaye to play well if they're to get three points.
Not having Aaron Ramsey will be a big miss for Arsenal, but Jack Wilshere is back in the side, so the Gunners shouldn't suffer a big drop-off in midfield. In addition, Lukas Podolski has returned, which will help to take some of the pressure off Olivier Giroud, David Hytner of The Guardian writing:
Everyone connected to the club was delighted – and not only because Podolski is such a popular figure. After the failure to sign a top-quality No9 last summer and Podolski's injury, Olivier Giroud has shouldered an immense burden as the sole leader of the line and there have been signs that the strain is telling.
Giroud was poor at West Ham – he has now gone seven matches without a goal – and he would surely benefit from a lightening of his workload. This is where Podolski comes in. Arsène Wenger sees him as a left-sided forward but Podolski sees himself as a No9 and he is ready to help Giroud and the team.
Even without Ramsey, Arsenal will control possession in this match. According to WhoScored.com, the Gunners maintain 57 percent possession when playing away from home—the fourth-highest total in the league.
An early goal from Giroud will help the Gunners on. Newcastle will be forced to chase the game late and that will leave the back four exposed, Arsenal adding on an insurance goal late to secure the three points.
Newcastle 0, Arsenal 2
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