Newcastle Club Focus – Magpies face Stoke as battle for Champions League places hots up

Newcastle continue their quest to make the Champions League places when they entertain Stoke City at the weekend. They currently stand fifth in the table but only goal difference separates them from out-of-form Tottenham in fourth. Although the Magpies did not play a game last weekend they would have been pleased to see Arsenal drop points against Wigan. The Gunners are still not guaranteed a top four berth. A home match against mid-table Stoke offers a good opportunity for Newcastle to keep up the pressure on the teams around them.

According to the Evening Chronicle, Newcastle’s biggest concern is over goalkeeper Tim Krul. The Dutchman jarred his back in training mid-week and remains a slight doubt. If Krul does not make it, either veteran Steve Harper or Rob Elliott would take his place between the posts. So far this season the 24 year old has been an almost ever present with a League Cup tie against Nottingham Forest the only game he’s missed. With the Magpies not having played a game in 12 days, they should be able to name a stronger squad than in their previous two games. The likes of Danny Guthrie, Cheik Tiote and Gabriel Obertan should all return to compete for a starting slot.

When Newcastle and Stoke met earlier in the season Alan Pardew’s side produced one of their best away performances of the season. They won comfortably 3-1 at the Britannia Stadium thanks to a hat-trick from Demba Ba. The Potters currently stand 14th in the table and have little other than pride to play for. Their form has been inconsistent of late with just one win in their last five league games. That said, Newcastle cannot become complacent as Stoke still have a number of match winners in their side.

Striker Papiss Cisse has called on the club to keep hold of their top players in the summer (see The Northern Echo). Last weekend manager Alan Pardew did not completely rule out the sale of some of his star players. With the FA confirming that a place in Europe will go to the side finishing sixth in the table, the Magpies are almost guaranteed a place in continental competition.

Cisse said in an interview with the Northern Echo newspaper: “Yes, I would be worried if they (Ba and Tiote) left, because they have helped me a lot. It may affect me because of that, but at the end of the day that’s football and if a big opportunity came along for them to move they can, but I would love for them to stay and play here longer, because we are doing very well together.” The Senegalese forward will be looking to continue his blistering start to life in the Premier League which has already seen him already reach double figures. With his fellow strikers struggling for form, Cisse may well need to keep up his prolific feats until the end of the campaign.

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

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