After the weekend’s latest Premier League win over Wigan on Saturday, Newcastle aim to get themselves into the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup tonight when they travel to Ewood Park to take on Blackburn, a team already conquered by the in-form Magpies this season.

The league game was a comfortable 3-1 victory for the Toon Army on home soil but they’ll have to travel to Lancashire and win away from home if they are to enhance their chances of winning a cup competition for the first time since 1969.

Rovers’ manager Steve Kean still remains universally unpopular with his side’s fans and there’s sure to be more protests and banners highlighting the beleaguered Scotsman’s lack of support. In truth it looks like only a matter of time before Kean is bombed out of Lancashire by the chicken-wielding owners of the club, but the Venky’s owners seem to be keen (no pun intended) on giving the man in charge time to turn it around.

Alan Pardew meanwhile is enjoying the acclaim of the hard-to-please Geordie nation, as his side remains unbeaten in all competitions this season. The closest the Magpies have come to losing has been in the Carling Cup though, with narrow victories over Nottingham Forest and Scunthorpe getting Pards’ side to the fourth round stage thus far.

Shola Ameobi suffered a hamstring injury this week and won’t travel to Blackburn so there could be a start up front for Hatem Ben Arfa in what will be his first start since coming back from injury at the start of the season. Cheick Tiote will also miss out with a knee injury, but is expected to be available for the tough away trip to Stoke next Monday. The Ivorian’s injury could be a chance for Pardew to take a closer look at summer signing Mehdi Abeid, who has been promising in his reserve outings so far since joining from Lens.

Steven Taylor broke his nose in the win over Wigan and will miss out, so there could be an opportunity for misfit James Perch to prove he still has some future at Newcastle, however it would take a monumental performance to win over the fans who have somewhat given up on the former Nottingham Forest defender. Davide Santon could start his first game in black and white after joining from Inter Milan and making a couple of substitute appearances in recent weeks.

Steven N’Zonzi will miss out for Blackburn through suspension and Ryan Nelsen is injured along with permanent sick note David Dunn. Junior Hoilett should start the game and will look to net past the Magpies for the second time this season, after getting what proved to be a consolation goal against us in the tie at St James’ Park a few weeks ago.

To get this far, Blackburn seen  off two League One sides at home. They conquered Sheffield Wednesday 3-1 before narrowly beating Leyton Orient 3-2. The combined crowd for the two games is just 15,000, which suggests that tonight won’t exactly be a sell-out. 3,000 tickets have been snapped up by the travelling Toon Army, meaning it will probably be more like a home tie for the Magpies in terms of crowd noise.

A win for Newcastle would get us into the quarter-final draw, where the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and the mighty Crystal Palace await us. I know which one I want us to draw should we see off the chicken fiddlers.


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