Club Focus – Newcastle United – Newcastle face Everton in mid-table clash

Newcastle go head-to-head with Everton at St James’ Park this weekend with both sides looking to end any lingering relegation fears. Only three points separate the two teams in the league table and it would be a major achievement for the Magpies to finish above the Merseysiders come the end of the season. Following the Toffees shock FA Cup exit at the hands of Reading in mid-week, Saturday’s opponents are both in the same boat in that they now only have league position to play for this season. Everton have also suffered a blow with the news that influential pair Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill will face some time on the sidelines due to injury.

When the two sides met earlier in the season at Goodison Park, a 1-0 win for the away team was hailed as a major surprise. The result appears to have set the tone for the remainder of the season, with the Magpies accumulating exactly half of their points total on the road. In September’s game, Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa was in inspirational form as he capped a Man of the Match performance with a fine goal. It is doubtful whether he will appear again this season as he looks to fully recover from a horrific double leg break.

Striker Shola Ameobi could be involved on Saturday, although he will have to wear a protective mask to defend his fractured cheekbone. Initially Ameobi suffered discomfort when he first wore his mask but over time he has grown accustomed to it. It is unlikely he will start the game as Alan Pardew will probably keep faith with his current strike pair of Leon Best and Peter Lovenkrands. Best in particular has really stepped up to the mark in Ameobi’s absence with a strike rate of a goal every two league starts.

Joey Barton and Stephen Ireland are both doubtful ahead of the Everton game. Barton is only rated as 50-50 while Ireland picked up a thigh strain in training on Thursday. If the pair fail to make it then Pardew may give teenager Shane Ferguson a rare appearance after he praised the Irishman in mid-week. Speaking about Ferguson the manager said: “He has a great chance here.”

According to reports in London, a fee has been agreed between QPR and Newcastle for the permanent transfer of Wayne Routledge. QPR manager Neil Warnock believes the two parties have agreed a deal that will see the winger return to his old club. Routledge has been in fine form since leaving the north east in January and it looks likely he will be back in the Premier League next season no matter what happens. The 26-year-old has, up to now, struggled to make much of an impact in the top division, whereas in the Championship he looks a much more confident performer.

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