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Prem Preview: Newcastle United - Manchester United

Wednesday, 4th March  19:45 GMT
St. James’ Park, Newcastle-upon-Tyne


That Sinking Feeling


Make no bones about, Newcastle United are firmly entrenched in a battle against the Premier League drop.

This unwanted status was confirmed when Ricardo Gardner’s measured shot handed the three points to Bolton Wanderers on Sunday afternoon.

From his watching vigil at home after a heart scare, makeshift manager Joe Kinnear must be despairing at the run the team has been on under his stand-in Chris Houghton.

The Magpies have only managed a solitary win in February, and even that was against basement boys West Bromwich Albion.

Without this result, the league table would make even worse reading. As it stands, Newcastle lie in 15th place, just two points above North East rivals Middlesbrough and the drop zone.

The Tynesiders could soon swap places with their neighbours. Manchester United’s visit heralds the start of a hellish run of fixtures which will define their season, as pressure cooker meetings with Hull City and Stoke City book-end clashes with Arsenal and Chelsea.

Just over a year ago, Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges humiliated the Black and Whites 5-1 at St. James’ Park. A repeat show will rock Newcastle’s fragile confidence and send them into this vital period with that dreaded sinking feeling in their hearts.

Toon-points Ahead

Another weekend, another trophy for the all-conquering Manchester United as the League Cup took up residency in the club’s overflowing trophy cabinet.

The second piece of the quintuple jigsaw fell into place on Sunday afternoon when Anderson’s penalty saw the Red Devils prevail over an improving Tottenham Hotspur.

In a goalless 120 minutes, the Mancunians did just enough to warrant the long walk up the Wembley stairs to get their hands on the silverware.

Sir Alex Ferguson would have been just as pleased to see Liverpool’s 2-0 slip up at Middlesbrough the day before, which let his team take a firm grip on the Premier League title.

The Scotsman will be keen to hammer home the advantage by preventing a re-enactment of the Merseysiders' North East nightmare when he takes his team to Newcastle United.

Such is the glut of riches at his disposal, Ferguson will be able to throw the fully rested Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Edwin Van der Sar and Dimitar Berbatov into the fray after they sat out Sunday’s Carling Cup showpiece.

With these men raring to get back into the action, there’s every chance the Red Devils will take an unassailable 10-point lead at the top of the table on their way to trophy number three.


FORM GUIDE

Newcastle United:


1st March vs. Bolton Wanderers (A) lost 1-0 (PREM)
22nd February vs. Everton (H) drew 0-0 (PREM)
7th February vs. West Bromwich Albion (A) won 3-2 (PREM)
1st February vs. Sunderland (H) drew 1-1- (PREM)
28th January vs. Manchester City (A) lost 2-1 (PREM)

Manchester United:

1st March vs. Tottenham Hotspur (N) drew 0-0 (aet) won 4-1 on pens (CARLING CUP)
24th February vs. Inter (A) drew 0-0 (CHAMPS LG)
21st February vs. Blackburn Rovers (H) won 2-1 (PREM)
18th February vs. Fulham (H) won 3-0 (PREM)
15th February vs. Derby County (A) won 4-1 (FA CUP)


TEAM NEWS

Newcastle United:


The Toon’s endless injury list grew again this week as Nicky Butt (knee) joined Damien Duff (calf), Xisco (ankle), Michael Owen (ankle), Danny Guthrie (hamstring), Habib Beye (ankle) and Joey Barton (metatarsal) on the sidelines. Kevin Nolan is also out through suspension.

Last starting XI (vs. Bolton Wanderers): Harper, Steven Taylor, Coloccini, Bassong, Jose Enrique, Gutierrez, Ryan Taylor, Butt (Geremi 66), Lovenkrands, Ameobi, Martins (Viduka 78).
Subs Not Used: Forster, Cacapa, Smith, Edgar, Carroll.

Squad: Harper, Forster, Steven Taylor, Cacapa, Edgar, Ryan Taylor, Coloccini, Bassong, Jose Enrique, Gutierrez, Geremi, Lovenkrands, Ameobi, Martins, Carroll, Viduka, Smith.

Possible starting XI: Harper, Steven Taylor, Coloccini, Bassong, Jose Enrique, Gutierrez, Ryan Taylor, Geremi, Lovenkrands, Ameobi, Martins

Manchester United:

Sir Alex Ferguson welcomes Wayne Rooney back into the squad after he recovered from a virus. Gary Neville is also in contention after shaking off an illness.

Wes Brown (metatarsal), Rafael (fractured ankle) and Owen Hargreaves (knee) are out of contention for the trip to the North East, whilst John O’Shea (heel) is a doubt.

Last starting XI (vs. Tottenham Hotspur): Foster, O'Shea (Vidic 76), Evans, Ferdinand, Evra, Ronaldo, Scholes, Gibson (Giggs 91), Nani, Tevez, Welbeck (Anderson 56).
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Park, Possebon, Eckersley.

Squad: Van der Sar, Foster, Kuszczak, Evra, O’Shea, Evans, Fabio, Vidic, Ferdinand, Ronaldo, Scholes, Gibson, Anderson, Carrick, Nani, Giggs, Fletcher, Park, Tevez, Welbeck, Berbatov, Rooney.

Possible starting XI: Van der Sar, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, O’Shea, Ronaldo, Anderson, Carrick, Giggs, Rooney, Berbatov.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Newcastle United: Obafemi Martins
needs to start firing if the Toon are to drag themselves away from the relegation places. With Michael Owen on the sidelines, the Magpies’ goalscoring responsibility rests on his shoulders. Manchester United’s defence are a tough nut to crack, but with the Nigerian's searing pace, anything is possible.

Manchester United: The Red Devils’ resident Geordie Michael Carrick is in the form of his life. Calmly keeping the United machine ticking over from his central midfield berth, he’s been the linchpin of the club’s five-pronged assault for silverware. Carrick was missed against Tottenham on Sunday, sadly for Newcastle, they won’t be so lucky.


PREDICTION

When you’re struggling near the foot of the table, the last team you want to swing into town are Manchester United with the bit between their teeth.

Wednesday night is about damage limitation for Newcastle United. Chris Houghton will be desperate to avoid a repeat of the 5-1 thrashing Liverpool handed out over Christmas.

Newcastle United 0-3 Manchester United

Matt Monaghan, Goal.com