Resurgent West Ham United will be after their fourth consecutive win in all competitions when they travel to the North East to take on Newcastle United, whose losing streak came to an end last time out.
Although it was not enough to lift them out of the bottom three, the epic 3-3 draw at home to Manchester United on Tuesday provided plenty of cause for optimism for everybody at Newcastle. They showed determination, character and fighting spirit to come back from a two-goal deficit instigated by a harsh penalty award, and even more to grab an equaliser in the dying minutes having fallen behind again. It shows that the team is definitely capable of fine things; they just do not show it often enough.
The link up play between striker Aleksandar Mitrovic and midfield runner Georginio Wijnaldum was a very positive sign and suggested that a successful partnership could be brewing, while the midweek signing of Jonjo Shelvey can be very much seen as a statement of intent. He will add a combative though creative influence to the Magpies midfield – perhaps for the first time at the club since they lost the services of Yohan Cabaye back in January 2014.
Victory at Bournemouth during the week was very much a performance of two halves from West Ham, who were off the pace in the first half as record signing Andy Carroll suffered yet another injury setback after only a quarter of an hour. But as soon as they came out after half-time they were a completely different outfit, and the consistently marvellous Dimitri Payet inspired a terrific fightback from a goal behind with his energy and passing ability, not to mention a superb free-kick.
Enner Valencia also seized the opportunity to showcase his dead ball prowess, firing in a stunning third to cap a great night for the Hammers and for the Ecuadorian in particular, as his brace represented his first Premier League goals of the season. After a dip in form that lasted until the festive period, Slaven Bilic’s men really seem to be back on their game, and it is no coincidence that this good run has coincided with Payet’s return. If he can stay fit, then West Ham are a team to watch out for.
Shelvey could make his Newcastle debut along with fellow new signing Henri Saivet, but Cheick Tiote is in talks to leave the club and will not feature. Siem De Jong is among the injured absentees.
Carroll will be out for around six weeks for West Ham, joining Manuel Lanzini and Diafra Sakho on the treatment table, but they do have Cheikhou Kouyate, Victor Moses and Mauro Zarate all back available.
Last Meeting: Having plummeted down the Premier League table, Newcastle needed to win against West Ham on the final day of last season to ensure survival, and they managed it with two second half goals. The first came courtesy of a Moussa Sissoko header, before Jonas Gutierrez capped his final appearance for the club by grabbing the crucial second to leave Head Coach John Carver ecstatic.
Played for both – Kieron Dyer: The midfielder signed for Newcastle in 1999 and soon became a key player in a team that challenged at the top end of the Premier League and playing in Europe’s premier competition under Sir Bobby Robson. After 190 league appearances and 23 goals, he moved to West Ham in 2007, but soon suffered a serious injury from which he never recovered and only played 30 top-flight games.