Currently two points adrift of safety, Newcastle United will be hoping to boost their Premier League survival hopes with a win over West Bromwich Albion, whose fears will increase should they lose on Tyneside.
There have been some positive signs coming from Newcastle in recent weeks both in terms of their efforts on the pitch and their dealings during the January transfer window, but they took something of a step back in midweek as they suffered an eventually heavy defeat away to Everton. While it was only two late penalties that put the game beyond them, Steve McClaren’s men were second best throughout and created precious little in front of goal.
If they are to escape from the perilous position they find themselves in, home games will be extremely important for the Magpies between now and the end of the season, with several of their relegation rivals still to visit St. James’ Park. This is a pivotal clash as victory will drag their opponents into the scrap and they certainly have the pace and incision to trouble West Brom, who will attempt to crowd the midfield and limit the influence of Jonjo Shelvey.
Not for the first time this season, the West Midlands side were able to pull one out of the fire by scoring a last-gasp goal to earn a point at home to Swansea City last time out. It emphasised the danger they pose from set-pieces and here they will possess a considerable height advantage, so if the delivery is right it is a potential avenue to success as they look to win away to Newcastle for only the second time in the league since 1977.
Unlike their opponents, West Brom were barely active in the transfer window with much of the activity surrounding them concerning one Saido Berahino, who really needs to knuckle down now an prove why he is valued so highly. Two expert finishes in the recent FA Cup draw with Peterborough United made it obvious that he is indeed a special talent, but he has work to do to regain a place in the Premier League starting XI, where the technically gifted Salomon Rondon is currently getting the nod.
Chancel Mbemba will miss a Premier League match for the first time as a Newcastle player, and fellow defenders Paul Dummett and Jamaal Lascelles are also absent. That is likely to mean a recall for Steven Taylor.
West Brom are still unable to call upon Chris Brunt, while defender Jonathan Evans will be out for two weeks after sustaining a hamstring injury.