Fabricio Coloccini - Newcastle United News

After enjoying a rare weekend off from Premier League action, Newcastle resume their challenge for European football tonight when they visit the capital to take on in-form Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners have been in majestic form of late, destroying AC Milan in the Champions League, triumphing over North London rivals Tottenham 5-2 and beating Liverpool on their last league outing. Much of the upsurge in form has been down to the lethal scoring of Robin Van Persie, who has 32 goals to his name in all competitions this season.

Newcastle’s form has been patchy of late, drawing their last two after turning in their worst performance of the season against Spurs. Last week’s last-gasp equaliser against the Mackems will have them in good spirits though, and recent form against Arsenal will be further source for hope for Alan Pardew’s side.

Last time they visited the Emirates, Andy Carroll’s header ensured the Geordies claimed all three points and when Arsene Wenger’s men came to St James’ Park earlier this season, the sides played out a 0-0 draw in a game remembered more for Joey Barton’s infamous scuffle with Gervinho.

Times have changed since that meeting though, and Papiss Cisse has replaced Carroll as the new number 9 for Newcastle. After scoring a stunning debut goal against Aston Villa, the Senegalese striker has struggled to get going for his new club, and mackem-slayer Shola could be in line for a start tonight if Pardew decides for a more physical approach.

Hatem Ben Arfa will also be hoping to start on the right of midfield after Ryan Taylor was ruled out through injury, whilst there are no new injury worries for the Geordies. Steven Taylor, Sylvain Marveaux, Steve Harper, Leon Best, Sammy Ameobi and Nile Ranger all remain sidelined. Peter Lovenkrands also picked up an injury this week which could keep him out for the rest of the season, meaning his time in black and white could be up, with the Dane out of contract – and ultimately out of first-team favour – in the summer.

Arsenal have been boosted by Tomas Rosicky’s recent form, and the Czech midfielder has today signed a new two-year deal to keep him in North London. The Gunners have a host of injury worries of their own, although most have been long-term for Arsene Wenger to deal with. Abou Diaby, Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong, Per Mertersacker and Jack Wilshere are all out, whilst Sebastien Squillaci, Andre Santos, Theo Walcott and are all struggling with injuries.

Newcastle’s trips to London haven’t been the most fruitful in recent history, with the Geordies generally struggling to come away with anything from the capital. This season hasn’t been much of an exception either, with Pardew’s side shipping five goals against Tottenham and Fulham in two of their last three away games.

The game could be pivotal in both sides’ end-of-season ambitions, with Arsenal chasing what seemed to be an unlikely Champions League place, and the Magpies on the hunt for a Europa League place. Newcastle can’t move any higher or lower than 6th place, regardless of the result tonight, but Arsenal can go within one point of Tottenham in third with a win.