Newcastle United return to Premier League action against Wolves – desperate to get back on the winning trail and keep their European dream alive after being trounced at Tottenham.
The Magpies suffered a nightmare trip to the capital, conceding five goals without reply and they’ll need to get that defeat out of their systems when they welcome a Wolves team who have appointed Terry Connor as manager following the sacking of Mick McCarthy two weeks ago. Wanderers chief Steve Morgan decided to wield the axe just 24-hours after watching his side get thumped by Midlands rivals West Brom at Molineux. Reading boss Brian McDermott turned them down earlier this week whilst Alan Curbishley also ruled himself out of the running, prompting the board to appoint assistant manager Connor until the end of the season.
His first game in charge will be on Tyneside where he’ll hope to launch the club’s survival bid as they battle to beat the drop. Despite a dreadful run of three wins in their last 23, only goal difference is keeping Wanderers in the relegation zone with Blackburn, who they are level on points with, holding a two goal advantage. Climbing out of the bottom three will be difficult against Europa League chasing Newcastle who lie just a point outside the top four. Alan Pardew’s men have lost just twice since the turn of the year, with most of those victories coming at St James’ Park and they’ll be sure to welcome home comforts following their White Hart Lane horror show. Four victories since the turn of the year has transformed the Toon Army into genuine contenders for European football and they’ll be confident of securing all three points in front of their own supporters.
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Morale is at an all-time low in the Wolves camp and it’ll be Connor’s job to raise the spirits as they go in search of back-to-back away wins for the first time this season. Their success at fellow strugglers QPR at the start of February was their first since the opening day, but their chances of achieving victory look slim on a ground where they haven’t won for over 20 years. Sebastien Bassong’s return from injury to face his former club will be a boost to a defence that has conceded 49 goals in 25 games this season. He’ll have his work cut out against 16-goal Demba Ba and Senegalese compatriot Papiss Cisse, who is in line to make his first home start of the season. Pardew has a real selection headache on his hands with midfield duo Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote back in contention, with the latter likely to be restricted to a cameo role following his involvement in the African Cup of Nations and Danny Guthrie’s impressive recent form.
Newcastle (6th, 42 points): L W W L W W
Wolves (18th, 21 points): L W L L W L
Demba Ba: The Senegalese striker was isolated last week against Tottenham but still turned in an admirable display up front. Ba’s strength in the air will be a key component for Newcastle if they are to return to winning ways whilst his partnership with international teammate Cisse should cause Wolves a ton of problems.
Steven Fletcher: Goals win games and that is what Wolves are desperately in need of right now. Scotland international Fletcher has found the net consistently for Wanderers this season and scored 10 times in 17 starts. He’ll be expected to convert any chances created at St James’ Park.
Newcastle triumphed 4-1 in this fixture last season and will be hoping for a similar result this time around although they’ll have to be wary of Wolves who, despite lacking an experienced manager in the dugout, will set out their stall to frustrate and ensure they head back to the Midlands with a point.