The Magpies’ impressive start to the season has slowly unravelled in the last month taking two points from a possible 15 since beating Everton at the start of November. Manager Alan Pardew will point to the Magpies’ tough fixture list with games against both Manchester clubs and Chelsea yielding just a point and a succession of injuries to key players. Despite the negative results performances have remained consistently good although Pardew will be unhappy his side took only a point out of games against newly promoted teams Norwich and Swansea. The 4-2 defeat against the former saw their patched up defence take a battering whilst the goalless draw against the Swans saw Newcastle lack a cutting edge in front of goal. The return of captain Fabricio Coloccini and midfield enforcer Cheik Tiote saw the Geordies keep their first clean sheet in seven games after conceding 11 goals in their previous four. Whilst they are still sitting in sixth Pardew will be demanding improvement from his players and should they beat West Brom it would take them to on to 30 points. I doubt many Newcastle fans would have envisaged the club would be in such a position at the start of the season.
Beating the Baggies will be no easy feat though with their win over Blackburn on Saturday lifting them five points away from danger. Roy Hodgson’s side have been frustratingly inconsistent this season and have been in awful form of late winning just two out of their last seven games. This victories came against two clubs battling the drop but I’m sure most supporters will lay down the old adage of you have to play what’s in front of you. Their performance at Ewood Park will go a long way to raising the confidence levels in both the stands and the dressing room. Their flirtation with the bottom three has proved to be a brief one and the win over Rovers provided a nice buffer going into Christmas. The return to full fitness of Peter Odemwingie has been a big plus point and his goal at the weekend appeared to be a signal of intent. The Nigerian has had a frustrating start to the campaign but he showed signs of the player that took the top-flight by storm after his move to the Hawthorns in 2010. The same can be said for James Morison and Christ Brunt who were superb for Albion on Saturday and the former will be a huge miss should a hamstring injury rule him out of the trip to Tyneside.
Newcastle 7th : 27 points
Team news: Newcastle will miss key midfielder Yohan Cabaye who is suspended whilst Ryan Taylor could also be absent after missing the Swansea game through injury. Steven Taylor, Danny Guthrie and Sylvain Marveaux are out long-term.
Key Player: Demba Ba
Whilst many would pick Fabricio Coloccini as Newcastle’s key player it’s Ba who makes the Magpies tick up front. 11 goals in as many games since his free transfer move from West Ham and he was unlucky not to make it 12 against Swansea. The striker did anything but score in a display that highlighted his strength and dexterity in the final third.
West Brom 13th : 18 points
Team news: James Morison, Paul Scharner and Youssuf Mulumbu are all doubtful for the trip to Newcastle after picking up knocks at the weekend.
Key Player: Peter Odemwingie
The Nigerian has had a frustrating season so far but was back to his best against Blackburn on Saturday scoring a stunning late winner and proving to be a nuisance throughout. His pace in the final third will be vital if the Baggies want to secure three points in the North East.
Newcastle are going through their first rough patch of the campaign and are playing well without picking up wins. They did everything but score against Swansea on Saturday and will likely take out their frustrations on a West Brom side who have won three times on their travels this season.