The call of European football will be beckoning Newcastle United on Saturday as they host struggling Everton. Three points from this fixture could see the Magpies usurp sixth-placed Liverpool to momentarily occupy a European qualification spot.
After missing out on the chance to scale the table last week, Newcastle will surely be looking to return to winning ways today. Without a home win since the turn of the year, Magpies fans have grown impatient at the winning drought being experienced at St. James Park this season.
The unpredictable Everton come into this game on the back of an embarrassing mid-week cup defeat to championship Reading. This following a dominant victory over the Magpies' hated rivals Sunderland, last weekend.
Recent history between the two sides does not make good reading for Everton fans who have seen their side lose in four of their last five meetings in Newcastle. Worse yet, there has not been a Toffees win in Newcastle this century, with their last win coming in 1999.
Nov. 20, 2010 - Everton 0, Newcastle 1 (Ben Arfa, 45)
(Last five games - Premier League)
Newcastle come into this game on the back of a series of good performances that have not yielded the points they deserved.
The Magpies were held to a draw against in form Bolton last time out and have had a stuttering campaign at home this season. Unbelievable as it may seem, Newcastle have only managed four victories in front of their own fans this season. This makes them the third worst home team in the league this season, a title they will be looking to change.
Shola Ameobi looks set to make a long-awaited return to the Magpies bench this weekend after recovering from the effects of a broken cheek bone. This should see him having to play with the aid of a protective face mask.
Newcastle may be faced with problems in its midfield, as manager Alan Pardew may either have a number of options or none as Stephen Ireland, Joey Barton and Danny Guthrie are all 50/50.
Joey Barton, who was hoping to face his boyhood club, will be kept out with a thigh injury. Guthrie, on the other hand, looks to feature after getting over his own hamstring issues.
Stephen Ireland, who has yet to play for the Magpies since a loan switch to the club, was hoping to play in this fixture but his knee problem will keep him out.
Ryan Taylor will definitely be out of this one after his reckless challenge against Bolton earned him a red card. A red card that will see him suspended for the foreseeable future.
Suspended: Ryan Taylor
Long-term Absentees: Dan Gosling, Alan Smith, Hatem Ben Arfa
Only notable team news from the Everton camp this week is the ankle injury that looks set to keep Marouane Fellaini out for the rest of the season. After undergoing surgery on the problem the inspirational afro-wielding midfielder may yet face a long spell on the sidelines.
This month looks to have come to early for Australian ace Tim Cahill, whose foot injury may keep him out for the rest of March.
Long-term Absentees: Marouane Fellaini, Tim Cahill
Projected Starting Lineup
Newcastle: Steve Harper, Steven Taylor, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Jose Enrique, Danny Simpson, Kevin Nolan, Cheik Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez, Leon Best, Peter Lovenkrands
Everton: Tim Howard, Tony Hibbert, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin, Leighton Baines, Phil Neville, Jack Rodwell, Mikel Arteta, Leon Osman, Jermaine Beckford, Louis Saha
Alan Pardew, Newcastle manager: "We can jump up the league a couple of places; we're a long way from getting into Europe, but we have a team that's functioning well, the results have been good since the turn of the year and we want to keep it going."