Premier League preview: Newcastle v Manchester United
Newcastle host Manchester United on Wednesday with both sides hoping to bounce back from bad losses.
Alan Pardew’s men could have climbed to sixth with a win over Liverpool but they succumbed to a 3-1 defeat at Anfield last start, while the Red Devils were stunned 3-2 by Blackburn at Old Trafford in the biggest upset of the season.
United’s slip-up against Rovers was not punished by rivals Manchester City – who lost to Sunderland on Sunday – meaning Sir Alex Ferguson’s men can still go top of the table if they avoid defeat against the Magpies.
Newcastle, however, will be keen to return to winning ways, having the solitary victory in their past eight – and that came against bottom side Bolton.
Wednesday’s hosts will be also keen to attack the United goal, following a puzzling performance from Manchester custodian David de Gea against Blackburn, shipping three goals.
Newcastle’s main avenue to that goal is Demba Ba, who has 14 goals to his name in the Premier League, to be second in the Golden Boot race behind Arsenal’s Robin van Persie.
Ba almost made it 15 with a delightful touch against Liverpool – his effort was cleared off the line – but it is clear the Senegalese needs to fire if Newcastle are to gain a result.
United will regain the services of top scorer Wayne Rooney (13 goals), after the Englishman served a one-game suspension inflicted by Ferguson after he found the striker – along with team-mates Jonny Evans and Darron Gibson – breached team rules.
Rooney’s ban allowed Dimitar Berbatov another chance to start for United, and his brace against Blackburn saw him bring his recent tally to six goals in three games to finish 2011 in a flurry.
United are still without Evans, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Young, Darren Fletcher, Chris Smalling, Nemanja Vidic, Fabio, Michael Owen, Tom Cleverley and Bebe due to injury.
Newcastle will be missing Nile Ranger, Peter Lovenkrands, Danny Guthrie, Steven Taylor and Sylvain Marveaux.
Pardew will be hoping his side can at least replicate their form from their previous two league clashes with United, which both ended in draws, including their 1-1 stalemate at Old Trafford in November.