Can Arsenal bring derby kings Newcastle down to earth?
Arsenal v Newcastle United, Emirates Stadium, Sunday November 7, 1.30pm, Live on Sky Sports
THERE can’t have been many better weeks to be a Newcastle fan than this one after their derby demolition of bitter rivals Sunderland propelled them up to seventh place in the Premier League table.
As if thrashing your derby rivals 5-1 wasn’t good enough, the Toon army also enjoyed seeing former player Titus Bramble red-carded during a riotous victory at St James’ Park that was a lot noisier than it had been four days earlier when the Gunners handed out a 4-0 Carling Cup beating to Chris Hughton’s side.
That result suggested a big gulf between the two clubs, but Newcastle supporters will point to the fact that, like Arsene Wenger, Hughton picked a much-changed side eight days ago.
It will be the first team again that come to the Emirates on Sunday, which will mean relegation back to the ranks for the likes of James Perch, Thomas Kadar, Wayne Routledge, Haris Vuckic and Nile Ranger.
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Instead will be players brimming with confidence, and how tempted Hughton will be to stick with a 4-4-2 formation after Shola Ameobi’s double strike against Sunderland.
Together with Toon bad-boy Andy Carroll the pair caused chaos against the Black Cats and it will be hard for Hughton to change a side, despite the rather more challenging environment of a trip to Emirates Stadium.
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The same goes for his midfield – with skipper Kevin Nolan having smashed a hat-trick, Ivory Coast international Cheik Tiote growing in stature and Joey Barton and Jonas Gutierrez also key men.
At the back, Mike Williamson is currently preferred as the partner to Fabricio Coloccini while former Manchester United trainee Danny Simpson is gaining plenty of plaudits at right-back and Jose Enrique a steady presence on then left.
In goal Tim Krul has taken his chance after injury to Steve Harper, but did not enjoy a happy night against Arsenal last week.
It is almost five years since the Magpies last beat Arsenal, and they have suffered plenty of sound beatings in between. But Arsenal will need to maintain their defensive solidity to contain Carroll and, if he starts, Ameobi. No stroll in the park.
Prediction: Arsenal 2 Newcastle 1