Club Focus – Newcastle United – Magpies aiming for survival and then Europe with win against Bolton

Newcastle United return to action on Saturday following an 11 day break with a home match against Bolton Wanderers. A win should all but guarantee safety for this season while also boosting their outside chance of making the European places. When the two clubs met in November the Magpies were on the receiving end of their heaviest defeat of the season. A 5-1 loss in Lancashire was compounded by the dismissal of Argentine defender Fabricio Coloccini. Newcastle will be keen to take revenge in a match that sees two of the leagues surprise packages go head to head. Bolton are just one place and one point ahead of their opponents by occupying eighth spot.

Alan Pardew’s side could well be unchanged from the starting line up that performed well in the win at Birmingham City a week and a half ago. Striker Shola Ameobi is unlikely to be involved in the game after just returning to light training. He may however be involved against Everton in a week’s time. Steven Taylor may be included in the match day squad following his return from a hamstring injury.

While there have been few changes in personnel on the pitch since Pardew took over in December a number of changes have been made behind the scenes. Newcastle’s latest manager has brought in several new members of staff and has also implemented new technology to monitor player performance. He revealed: “I have changed a lot of analytical stuff since I came in. I brought in two new analysts who put together reports on how our defence, our midfield and our attack is doing. They also look at how our opposition is doing, plus there’s the scouting side too.” Newcastle are currently scouting across Europe and in the lower English leagues to find new talent that can be brought in relatively cheaply. Two of the biggest successes to be unearthed by club scouts are Cheik Tiote and defender Mike Williamson.

On the training ground Pardew has focused on the organisational and defensive side of things, leaving coaches Steve Stone and John Carver to work with the attack. The former Reading and West Ham boss is very much a modern manager and uses the Amisco system to monitor the performance of his players on the training ground. Earlier in the week Pardew opened up Newcastle’s training ground to members of the local media for a rare insight behind the scenes. Up to now owner Mike Ashley’s latest appointment has managed to make a favourable impression among the fans and the local press, both of whom can be hard to please at times.

In other news, attacking midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa is aiming to return in April as he nears a return from a broken leg he injured earlier in the season. A strong challenge from Manchester City’s Nigel de Jong looked to have ended the Frenchman’s season but he has made good progress since October. Ben Arfa has been pencilled in to return against Wolves in early April, giving him two months to get up to full speed. It will be a big boost to have the highly rated former Marseille man back in action.

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