Surely the script is written, Steve Harper caps twenty years at St.James’ Park with a man of the match performance as Newcastle deny Arsenal Champions League football and a freak set of results sees United finish an unlikely top half tenth.
Ironically, we play the team second bottom of the recent form league today, QPR picking up only 2 point out of the last 18, while our other remaining match is against the club at the top of the form league, Arsenal picking up 14 out of the last 18 points. It wouldn’t take a genius to work out where we have most chance of picking up points if we are going to need them.
In this 4-3-3 formation we need Cabaye getting forward with Sissoko & Tiote supporting him and covering, while Cabaye can hopefully influence the game in a more positive way than in a deeper role. This line-up would give us the potential of a hard working but talented front six who can take the game to West Ham.
A win today wouldn’t cure the problems of this season but it would go a long way to ensuring Premiership football and convincing fans that this team could have real potential next season.
Let’s do it.
With nobody else in the likely starting apart from Cisse and Gouffran having any kind of a scoring pedigree, to me it is a no-brainer to at least try and get the French striker into positions where we can see if he can share the goal responsibility.
I know he has his doubters but Tiote will surely start if fully ‘wound up’, his energy can help us to dominate a midfield area that could and should provide the platform to win the game. Cabaye of course will play in the middle and hopefully Tiote’s presence will spark him into a bit more life as he looked washed out on Thursday night and definitely missing his spark.
Can this group of players overturn the two goal deficit? I think the answer is a guarded yes, if Newcastle don’t concede in the first half then we’ll be bang still in the tie, a goal to the good by then and the place will be rocking. Bring it on!
For all the injuries problems and a hard game in Lisbon on Thursday, there are no excuses as this is a must win match and Newcastle’s players should be well up for it.
Three points is the only outcome today.
If Alan Pardew goes for his strongest team then I would expect Cabaye, Cisse, Jonas, Marveaux, Santon, Sissoko, Taylor and Mapou all to start. Which then leaves Perch, Simpson, Anita and Shola to compete for the remaining two spots.
However, there are positives and the January spending has at least ensured that Newcastle can put a first eleven out worthy of the name, though if many changes need to be made then it could be bleak.