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Newcastle vs. Arsenal: match preview

A quick turnaround's in store for Arsenal, traveling to St. James Park tomorrow following their mid-week win at West Ham

Ian Walton

Arsenal stopped their three match skid, securing a meager two points out of 9, with their 3-1 come from behind victory at Boleyn Ground versus West Ham on Boxing Day, and they turn around quickly and face a surprising Newcastle side tomorrow that sits in 7th place but a mere six points behind the Gunners.  Lukas Podolski turned in as good of a substitute performance as one could expect at West Ham, but it came at the expense of an Aaron Ramsey thigh injury suffered in the second half of that match that will keep him out of tomorrow's encounter and, more than likely, for another month as well.

Arsene Wenger could have center back Laurent Koscielny back and availble for selection tomorrow, with the French defender recovering quickly from his deep cut suffered in the 6-3 thrashing at Manchester City.  Above-mentioned Podolski didn't suffer any setbacks in his return to the pitch last week and could be a candidate to spell either Santi Cazorla or Olivier Giroud in the starting XI

Alan Pardew welcomes back Cheick Tiote to his relatively-healthy squad, with only Jonas Gutierrez missing from selection.  Newcastle destroyed Stoke City 5-1 on Boxing Day, which took them to 13 points out of a possible eighteen in their last six league matches (tied for second-best form in the league, along with Chelsea and Everton), and Pardew and his players should feel they're more than up to the challenge presented by an Arsenal side that's looking to build off of their latest victory.

As many Arsenal fans remember, the Gunners claimed the fourth and final Champions League spot on the very last day of the season last year at St. James Park, winning 1-0 thanks to a Koscielny header in the first few minutes of the second half.  It was a hard fought match that provided many stressful moments as Newcastle roared forward, looking to spoil Arsenal's dreams of glittery European nights.  I expect Newcastle, with the potent Loic Remy added to their squad for this season, to provide a similar challenge tomorrow.

While Wenger's squad has been in a clou of sorts lately, and not securing three points tomorrow would hurt their table standings in the short-term, getting a result at St. James Park has proven a bit of a challenge for fellow like-minded title challengers Chelsea (a 2-0 loser in early November) and Liverpool (a 1-1 draw in October); Newcastle's only loss was at the hands of, curiously, newly-promoted Hull City in September.  I hope Arsenal look every bit the side they were prior to the start of the dreary stretch earlier this month, but getting out with a point wouldn't be the worst result in the world.

Prediction: Newcastle 1-1 Arsenal