Beating the Magpies at St James’ Park won’t be easy though after they swept past Manchester United with ease a fortnight ago to start 2012 in style. Alan Pardew’s side endured a frustrating festive period winning just once and having to contend with a series of injuries and suspensions to key players. However their display against the champions certainly laid down a maker for the New Year as they aim to qualify for the Europa League. The goals of free transfer Demba Ba have been a huge plus point for the Toon Army with the Senegal hit man scoring 15 times already this season. He’ll be missing for the visit of QPR on Sunday after jetting off to the African Cup of Nations along with midfielder Cheick Tiote. With the former West Ham forward leaving a massive hole in attack the likes of Leon Best, Shola Ameobi and Hatem Ben Arfa will need to step up over the next couple of weeks and ensure Newcastle continue on the straight and narrow until Ba returns. Ben Arfa has offered a glimmer of hope for supporters with his sparkling displays in recent weeks putting him into contention for a regular starting berth. The Magpies will need his Gallic artistry on Sunday as they aim for a second win on the spin in 2012.
Winning is a term that has become alien at Loftus Road with the R’s recording just two wins in their last 15 games causing them to plummet down the table towards the drop zone. The sacking of Neil Warnock last week courted a large amount of controversy with supporters unhappy that their former boss had been ousted after just half a season. However the appointment of Hughes has cooled the anger towards owner Tony Fernandes with the former Blackburn boss seen as the man to save Rangers’ Premier League skins. Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for the club this season with Heidar Helguson the only player managing to find the net on a regular basis. As an ex-striker himself there is no doubt Hughes will provide a solution to that with both Jay Bothroyd and DJ Campbell struggling for goals since joining last summer. He’ll have to sort it out quickly though with the QPR scoring a paltry five goals in their seven games over Christmas. Doing it at Newcastle on Sunday will be a huge task against one of the top flights strongest defences who also benefitted from a managerial change mid-way through previous campaign.
Newcastle United 7th : 33 points
Last six: W L W L D L
Team news: Sammy Ameobi and Danny Simpson are both sidelined but Danny Guthrie could return to replace Cheick Tiote who is at the African Cup of Nations with leading scorer Demba Ba.
Key Player: Yohan Cabaye
The Frenchman has enjoyed a superb first season in England and kicked off 2012 in style with a stunning free kick in the win over Manchester United. With Cheick Tiote off on international duty there is extra responsibility on Cabaye’s shoulders to hold the midfield together and still be Newcastle’s chief playmaker.
QPR 17th : 17 points
Last six: L L D L L L
Team news: Captain Joey Barton is suspended for the game against his former club whilst Alejandro Faurlin is out for the season.
Key Player: Heidar Helguson
With Jay Bothroyd and DJ Campbell both struggling for goals this season the Icelandic striker has stepped up to the plate finding the net scoring seven times in 11 starts. His power in the air and penchant to score important goals will be key to beating Newcastle on Sunday.
Newcastle will be purring after beating Manchester United last time out but with Demba Ba missing they will be going all out to ensure he isn’t missed. Mark Hughes takes charge of his first game as QPR boss and will be hoping his positive influence can have a positive effect on his new side.