Arsenal’s wonderful end to the season has left them in need of only three more points to secure Champions League football ahead of North London rivals Tottenham.
The Gunners fell seven points behind Spurs after a 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane in early March but seven wins and two draws in the nine matches played since then has lifted them to the brink of the top four.
Indeed, third place may not be out of the question either, either outright should third-placed Chelsea draw with Everton and Arsenal beat Newcastle by two clear goals, or even by an unlikely play-off with the Europa League winners at a neutral venue.
Victory for Arsene Wenger’s men would secure a place at the top table of European football for a 16th consecutive season and could be crucial in terms of the Frenchman’s summer recruitment plans.
The North Londoners have a near fully-fit squad to choose from, with only Abou Diaby a long-term absentee with a knee injury. However, key defensive midfielder Mikel Arteta is a major doubt with a calf problem, meaning that Jack Wilshere, who is set to undergo surgery on his ongoing ankle injury next week, could start in the Spaniard’s place.
Up front, Wenger has a decision to make with Olivier Giroud available again following suspension. However, the Frenchman’s replacement up front in that period, Lukas Podolski, looks to have come into form after scoring twice as the lone striker against Wigan in midweek.
Newcastle meanwhile are relieved to have secured safety after an extremely difficult campaign. Manager Alan Pardew has attracted criticism for his comments that he “would not care if [the Magpies] lost 4-0” to Arsenal, though he has assured the club’s supporters that those comments were made in jest.
Pardew has the longest injury list in the division at present, with Cheikh Tiote, Massadio Haidara and Davide Santon (all hamstring), Steven Taylor (illness), Shola Ameobi, Moussa Sissoko and Ryan Taylor (all knee) and Tim Krul (dislocated shoulder) all looking likely to miss out.
Meanwhile, long-serving third-choice keeper Steve Harper will make a final appearance for the club after second-choice custodian Rob Elliot picked up a red card at QPR last week.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Newcastle