Smack bang in the middle of their worst run of Alan Pardew’s time on Tyneside, Newcastle face the notoriously tough trip to the Britannia tonight to take on hoof-merchants Stoke City. Given the Geordies’ soft centre and susceptibility to the long ball down the middle in recent weeks, Charlie Adam and co. could have a field day against an out of sorts Newcastle.

Stoke have picked up of late and have banished their early season poor form, while Pardew’s side have gone the other way, losing their last two and without a win in five. Losing tonight could see desperate measures in the North-East.
It’s almost easier to list the players that are fit for the Magpies than the ones who are missing, with Pardew almost to the point where he picks the first XI that walk through the doors at training in the morning. No confirmation of the rumour that Nile Ranger had set his alarm for 5am…

Fabricio Coloccini returning is the one bright point for tonight’s visitors, but from there on it’s all bad news. Dan Gosling, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Shola Ameobi, Steven Taylor, Ryan Taylor and Gabriel Obertan are all out, meaning more patching up is higher up on Pardew’s “to-do” list than this year’s Christmas shopping.

Add to that list the fact that Papiss Cisse and even Tim Krul are out of form in recent weeks – months for the former of that pair – and tonight is a potential disaster waiting to happen.

For Stoke, former Toon flop and serial bench-warmer Michael Owen is actually fit and able to play, but will likely be on the bench as Tony Pulis is set to stick with his preferred front pair of Peter Crouch and Jon Walters. Andy Wilkinson is doubtful with injury but otherwise Stoke have a strong squad to choose from.

A win for Newcastle would be something of a miracle given their recent performances but could move them into the top half, while Stoke could rise to 8th if they win.

By Chief Sports Writer, Marley Anderson