Match preview by Cal, click here to go the our match discussion thread
This Sunday afternoon marks the climax of what could very well be the most disappointing season in recent memory for both clubs taking part in this match.
Despite making no permanent signings in the summer, Newcastle had an excellent first half of the season, fuelled mostly by the creativity of Yohan Cabaye, goals from loanee Loïc Rémy and the hard-working displays of the likes of Debuchy, Tioté and Gouffran, daring to flirt with the idea of a return to Europe as they sat in 6th and just 3 points short of Champions League football on Boxing Day.
However, it was not to be. Since that day we have lost 13 of our 19 league games, earning just 16 points and setting a record Premier League losing streak for the club. We’re now in 9th place, 27 points short of 4th place, guaranteed that oh so important top 10 finish that various club officials have harped on about in recent months, although we can be overtaken by Stoke City on this final day.
The January transfer window saw us sell our best player and, again, fail to make a permanent signing, instead only bringing in another loan signing; the misfiring Luuk de Jong, who is seemingly incapable of striking a ball and has been outscored by Shola Ameobi since his arrival. A 3-match suspension for Rémy, who looks set for better things after his loan, quickly followed by a 6-week lay-off due to injury has showed us just how bereft of striking options we are as a club, scoring just a single goal in the 9 games that he has missed this calendar year.
To make matters worse, the only senior striker currently under contract into the next season, Papiss Cissé, recently underwent surgery on a broken kneecap that will keep him out for several months, intruding into next season.
We’ve seemingly alienated one of our few creative players in this post-Cabaye world, with recent reports that Ben Arfa has fell out with Pardew being followed up by the Frenchman’s lawyer claiming that his manager’s entourage were spreading false accusations in the press. He hasn’t played since.
In addition to our inability to attack, we’ve also had one of the leakiest defences in the league, and should we lose there’s a chance that we will have conceded the most goals of any club not to be relegated this season.
The fans are now in open revolt against the management and ownership of the club, manifesting in the form of media campaigns openly calling for Pardew’s head, walkouts, constant chanting and abusing of the manager to the extent that he was scared to leave his dugout, and a wide range of banners that conveniently attract TV and photographer cameras alike to draw national attention to the issue (a preview of some for this game can be found here).
I suppose it’s apt that we will play this game in our new grey kit, its lack of saturation perfect for a club drained of its passion and ambition, reduced to a mere marketing platform for the brands plastered on the shirt and about the stadium.
The hosts have their own problems too, and they follow a somewhat similar arc, taking a bit longer to reach the disappointment however; they also started the season in great form, demonstrating the importance of retaining your top players as the same Suárez they prevented the sale of has won numerous player of the season awards and will win the golden boot, having already scored 31 goals in 32 appearances, with his strike partner Sturridge in second place on 20.
This attacking force fired them to Champions League contention throughout the season, and then the top of the table and looking like champions-elect through April, guaranteed to win the league if they didn’t slip up in their last 3 games. However that’s exactly what they did, dismantled by a Mourinho master class one week, and then drawing from a 3-0 position against a Palace side with nothing to play for the next. These 5 dropped points threw away their 3 point cushion over a Man City side that now only need a point from West Ham to seal the title, unless Liverpool win by 13 goals.
Davide Santon and Sammy Ameobi may return from injury, depending on late fitness tests. Hatem Ben Arfa is seemingly in exile, while Papiss Cissé and Ryan Taylor are long-term absentees. Adam Armstrong, who has been our third sub of choice recently, is away on international duty.
Liverpool are only missing former Newcastle player José Enrique, who has missed much of this season with a knee injury. Former Sunderland player Jordan Henderson returns from suspension.
Where to Watch/Listen
The match is live on Sky Sports 2, with coverage starting at 14:55, just 5 minutes before kick-off. Sky Sports 1 is home to the Man City match from 14:00, which will no doubt touch on our match too, albeit with the focus on Liverpool and the title.
Radio commentary is on BBC Newcastle (local), BBC 5 Live Sport (national) and talkSPORT (international).
Overseas TV coverage (via nufc.com)
beIN Sports INA 3 Premier +HD
beIN Sports Mena 11 HD
Be Sport 2 (Lux)
C+ Futbol (Spain) +HD
C+ Sport (Poland) +HD
Digi Sport 2 (Hun) +HD
Dolce Sport 3 (Romania)
ESPN 2 Caribbean
ESPN Play Latin America
Fox Sports 2 (Aus) +HD
Fox Sports 4 HD (Ned)
Fox Sports Plus (Italy) +HD
GOL Sports 2 +HD
J Sports 2 (Japan)
Kanal 285 (Digiturk)
LTV Sports 2 (Cyprus)
NBC Sports Live Extra (USA)
NBC Sports Network (USA)
NTV+ Sport Hit (Russia)
OTE Sport 2 +HD
QQ Sports Live (China)
Slovak Sport TV1
Sport 2 (Israel) +HD
SportKlub 1 (Cro/Ser/Slo)
Star Sports 4 India
SuperSport 3 (Za) +HD
SuperSport 5 (Africa) +HD2
Telenet Sporting 3
TV2 Sport Premium 2 HD (Norway)
ViaPlay + HD (Den/Swe)
Viasat Sport (Swe) +HD
How do you think Newcastle will do? Have your say in our match chat thread here.