Newcastle United are growing in confidence as they continue their battling attempts to avoid dropping into the second tier, and they can give their chances a significant boost by getting the better of FA Cup finalists Crystal Palace.
Just one point now separates the Magpies from the safety line and indications are that they are very much in with a chance of hauling themselves out of the mess they have been in for the majority of the season. A marvellous comeback from two goals down at Liverpool shows just how much of an impact Rafael Benitez has had since taking over as manager; with the Spaniard inspiring an unlikely recovery after looking set for another away defeat.
The question is whether the club’s hierarchy waited just that little bit too long before deciding to act and appoint Benitez, and that will be answered when their fate is decided. There is a good amount of attacking quality in the squad as all of the strikers have something to offer, with Papiss Cisse showing signs that he may be finding form at the right time, while Aleksandar Mitrovic is a player who on his day is very capable of giving opposition defenders a tough time. But whichever line-up is named by Benitez, this is a must-win game for Newcastle.
Just one more point is all that Crystal Palace need to reach the 40-mark, but in reality safety has been all but secured, meaning that a lot of their attention will in theory be deflected towards that Wembley date in May. Between now and then it will simply be a case of playing for places, but on the other hand they will be keen to end their Premier League campaign on a high note after going through such hefty struggles since the turn of the year.
In their last league match against their FA Cup final opponents Manchester United manager Alan Pardew decided to bring a number of the club’s forgotten men back into the fold and they ended up on the end of a comfortable defeat, but the big hitters were back for the semi-final with Watford where they looked the superior side throughout. Their biggest threat as ever came from wide areas as Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha both caused havoc, and that is where Newcastle must be cautious here.
Yoan Gouffran is back for Newcastle, but they are likely to remain without defensive duo Fabricio Coloccini and Daryl Janmaat until the end of the season.
Marouane Chamakh and Brede Hangeland are long-term absentees for Crystal Palace, who have doubts over Zaha.
Last Meeting: Neil Warnock had just been appointed Crystal Palace manager and he led them to a thrilling 3-3 draw which was sealed thanks to a last-gasp equaliser. Dwight Gayle put the visitors ahead inside a minute and it was an advantage that was restored by Jason Puncheon after a goal from Daryl Janmaat, but a fine turnaround saw Rolando Aarons and Mike Williamson put Newcastle ahead. But Wilfried Zaha had the final say to make it 3-3 in the fifth minute of stoppage time.