It is Newcastle v Arsenal on Sunday.
Rafa Benitez hoping his team can make it five wins and a draw from their last seven Premier League fixtures, as the season draws towards a close.
There are all kinds of negative stats surrounding this fixture but at the same time there is room for plenty optimism.
It is quite amazing how poor Newcastle have been against Arsenal over recent years and by recent, I don’t just mean the last couple.
Considering Arsenal haven’t won the Premier League in this time period of stats, the fact Newcastle have won just one of 22 games against the Gunners since 10 December 2005 is quite incredible.
The record in all competitions reads played 22, 1 Newcastle win, 5 draws, 16 Arsenal wins. The sole victory was when Chris Hughton masterminded a win at the Emirates in 2010, Andy Carroll scoring the only goal.
In fact, since a goalless draw on the first day of the 2011/12 season, Newcastle have lost all 10 games against Arsenal.
So why the optimism.
Well, Arsenal have nothing to really play for in the Premier League, 13 points off the Champions League placings with six games to go.
Also, last Sunday they left out seven first team players against Southampton in favour of the Europa League match three days earlier. They need to win the Europa League as it is the only way they can get Champions League football back next season.
Tomorrow (Thursday) night they play the second leg in Moscow and Arsene Wenger will surely play a very strong team to make sure of getting to the semis. After watching Barcelona knocked out of the CL despite a three goal advantage before playing Roma last night, why would Wenger take any chances when the Premier League is all but meaningless this season for them?
With the Newcastle match only some 60 hours and a lot of travelling after Moscow, very few players will start both matches.
On top of all this though, we can take a lot of heart from what has happened since the last Newcastle v Arsenal match, when the Gunners hosted the Magpies back in December.
Arsenal shaded that 1-0 as Newcastle wasted decent late chances – at the time NUFC were on a massive downer as that defeat to Arsenal meant a run of only one point from nine games for Rafa’s team.
Since then though, just look at the results for the two clubs in the Premier League:
Arsenal since 16 December 2017
Played 14 Won 6 Drawn 3 Lost 5 GF 30 GA 23 – Points 21 from possible 42
Newcastle United since 16 December 2017
Played 14 Won 6 Drawn 5 Lost 4 GF 17 GA 15 – Points 23 from possible 42
Only two points more but if four months ago somebody had claimed that Rafa’s Newcastle would outperform Arsenal in that time period, anybody would have laughed.
If you look at the home and away extra info then it gets even more interesting.
The last five PL away matches have seen Arsenal draw at West Brom, then lose to Bournemouth,Swansea, Spurs and Brighton.
In contrast, Newcastle have won their last three home matches.
I am trying not to get too carried away but if Newcastle show the same ability and commitment they have shown in the last couple of months or so, whilst Arsenal have their minds elsewhere and continue their PL away form, then I can only see one result…
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