Friday, January 3, 2014

Newcastle - Stoke City Preview: Potters begin daunting run of fixtures

Stoke City visit Newcastle on Thursday, marking the start of a tough run that sees the visitors face four of the top seven in a row.


Mark Hughes's men are unbeaten in their last four Premier League matches but their recent upturn in form will be tested over the coming weeks as they face the in-form Magpies at St James's Park before taking on Tottenham, Everton and Liverpool.

After recording just one league win in 10 games throughout September, October and November, Stoke have won two and drawn two in December and sit 10th in the table. However, they have lost on their last two trips to Tyneside and face a Newcastle team who are sixth, having tasted defeat only once at home in the league this season.

That came against Hull City in September and, since then, Alan Pardew's side have gone on to record three victories in five home matches.

Newcastle now sit three points off a European place but Yohan Cabaye, who has scored in his last two games, says that he and his team-mates must remain concentrated and avoid complacency.

"We just want to think about the [Stoke] game," he told the Evening Chronicle. "We have to be focused on that.

"If we start thinking about the end of the season or the Europa League or something more, it might be difficult to stay focused."

Cabaye has proved a thorn in the side for Stoke at St James's Park, with the France international scoring three times on their last two visits to Tyneside, although Hughes will be confident that the Potters can shut out Newcastle, given their impressive defensive form of late.

Stoke's defence has been breached only three times in the last four Premier League games and they will hope that Peter Crouch can continue his scoring run, with the striker having found the net twice in his last three top-flight matches.

Victory for Stoke, barring a major swing in goal difference between themselves and Southampton, would not move them up the table, although a defeat could see them drop to 14th.

Newcastle have no fresh injury concerns, although Cheikh Tiote is suspended, while Matthew Etherington could make his first appearance for Hughes's side since November after recovering from a back injury. Stoke defender Robert Huth, meanwhile, remains sidelined after knee surgery.

Newcastle - Stoke City Preview: Potters begin daunting run of fixtures Rating: 4.5 Posted by: Unknown

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