Newcastle Club Focus – Crunch time for Euro hopefuls

Newcastle will be looking to boost their flagging European hopes with a victory over Norwich City at the weekend. The Magpies are currently without a win in their last four games as they enter the business end of the season. There was a much improved performance against Arsenal on Monday night but it counted for little due to last minute winner from Thomas Vermaelen. With Liverpool beginning to show signs of improvement in mid-week, there is no guarantee of a top six finish and the clash at the end of this month between the two sides will have a big say in the final outcome.

Newcastle cannot afford to take Sunday’s game for granted with Norwich picking up plenty of points on their travels. When the two teams met in East Anglia earlier in the season the home side were convincing victors with a 4-2 scoreline. That game was one of the low points of Newcastle’s season although the result owed much to a paucity of options at centre back. Paul Lambert has done a fine job with the Canaries and it appears almost a certainty that they will be playing Premier League football next season. Lambert’s side have shown that a team largely made up of Championship level players can survive in the top flight, evidenced by their current standing of twelfth.

Alan Pardew has a couple of injury doubts going into the game after Danny Simpson and Cheik Tiote both picked up knocks against Arsenal. The pair are expected to be fit which will be a major boost. However Ryan Taylor is less likely to feature with the utility player, who recently signed a new contract, still suffering with a calf problem. That may mean Italian Davide Santon continuing at left back despite the player’s problems in recent games. Striker Papiss Cisse could return to the starting XI if Pardew reverts to his usual 4-4-2 formation.

Over the course of this season, a number of players have committed their long-term future to the club. One of the few yet to join the list is Danny Guthrie, with the midfielder’s contract due to expire this summer. The former Liverpool player has stepped in to cover for the likes of Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye on a number of occasions and has rarely let his teammates down. Despite an uncertain future, Guthrie will not start talks with the club until the end of the season.

He told the Evening Chronicle newspaper: “I’m just scheduled for talks. Come the end of the season, my agent will be in touch with the club, or vice versa. We’re just waiting to see what happens.” Given the strength of his displays this campaign there are likely to be a number of other Premier League clubs monitoring his situation with the offer of regular first team football. Guthrie is joined by Danny Simpson in having an uncertain future in the north east.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Newcastle v Norwich

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