Newcastle and Stoke get ready for St James’ Park rumble
Newcastle United, 5/4 favourites with Coral to triumph in front of their fervent St James’ Park faithful, are in the hunt for back-to-back victories after racking up their first win of 2015 last time out.
The Magpies were majestic as they sank hosts Hull City 3-0, but Mark Hughes’ Stoke City side, 11/5 to split the spoils, will be a much tougher proposition.
With John Carver now installed as coach until the end of the season, the Toon Army will no doubt be hoping that their triumph against the Tigers marked a turning point in their season and an end to the turbulence.
Newcastle certainly hold the impetus in attack, backed by their goal-hungry home fans and facing a Potters outfit without skipper and centre back lynchpin Ryan Shawcross. The former Manchester United man is set to miss at least the next three outings with a back injury, leaving Stoke a little less sturdy.
Canary Islands-born attacker Ayoze Perez could certainly capitalise on Shawcross’ absence, as the promising Spain Under-21 striker has already grabbed five Premier League goals this season, and is a 7/4 chance to add to his tally anytime.
Tricky wingman Remy Cabella has been enjoying a new lease of life under the guidance of Carver and is a nifty 9/1 to open the scoring for the second game in a row, whilst prolific poacher Papiss Cisse (6/1 to net last) is always great value to make an impact late on.
The Potters are not lacking in offensive inspiration themselves, however, and continue to impress under Hughes’ stewardship.
Having netted eight in their past three outings across all competitions, enjoying three victories on the bounce, Stoke are 5/2 to continue their fine form and triumph again.
The Britannia Stadium side will be bullish after winning both of their last two battles with the Magpies, however, memories of the 5-1 drubbing they received at St James’ Park last campaign must also still be fresh.
Hughes may be without the guile of sidelined Bojan Krkic and hat-trick hero John Walters, who is doubtful after suffering a knee injury, but can still boast a trio of talented, if inconsistent, attacking midfielders.
Victor Moses (11/4 to net anytime), Marko Arnautovic (7/2) and Stephen Ireland (5/1) have all been amongst the goals lately, while Peter Crouch grabbed the winner against Newcastle earlier this season and is 6/1 to fire home first again.
In a further boost for the Potters, Senegal striker Mame Biram Diouf (6/1 to close the scoring) has returned from the Africa Cup of Nations and will be keen to re-establish himself in Hughes’ plans.