Thursday, January 24, 2008

Arsenal vs. Newcastle: Match Preview

Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United will travel to the Emirates this Saturday to face Arsenal in the fourth round of the FA Cup. The 12th placed Magpies will be hopeful of pulling off an unlikely victory after Arsenal crashed out of the Carling Cup in a 6-2 aggregate loss to Tottenham Hotspur.

Keegan would like to get his second managerial spell at Newcastle off to a winning start, but he faces tough opposition in the Gunners who will see the returns from injury of Gael Clichy and Philippe Senderos. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will still be missing Robin van Persie and Johan Djourou, and Neves Denilson, who featured against Tottenham midweek, is a late addition to the injury list after straining his muscle in the 5-1 loss.

Newcastle will have nearly their full complement of players available, with only Mark Viduka and Peter Ramage likely to be absent. The Magpies will also be full of energy, trying to prove themselves to their new manager.

Arsenal will also be looking to prove themselves after the embarassment at White Heart Lane a few nights ago, but the Gunners will also be facing some tough conditions after reports of a bust-up between strikers Emmanuel Adebayor and Nicklas Bendtner.

Arsene Wenger has assured Arsenal fans that he will rotate the squad from the one which faced Tottenham on Tuesday, although the manager is likely to rest some of his key players ahead of a Premier League game against Newcastle only three days after this match.

Jens Lehmann may start in goal as he did in the third round of the FA Cup against Burnley as Manuel Almunia gets a deserved rest.

In the defense, Armand Traore, Philippe Senderos, William Gallas, and Justin Hoyte are likely to feature as Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna rest for the more important league fixture.

In the midfield, Gilberto Silva and Abou Diaby should be the only survivors from the side that started against Tottenham on Tuesday. The pair will most likely be joined by Tomas Rosicky and Cesc Fabregas who will bring some creative impetus into the side. The battle may be won or lost in the center of the pitch, as an impressive force of Charles N'Zogbia, Damien Duff, James Milner and Nicky Butt is likely to line up against the Gunners.

Up front Nicklas Bendtner may start up front alongside Eduardo, although Emmanuel Adebayor may also feature if he has sorted out his episode with the Danish youngster.

This game is not too important in and of itself, but Wenger would like to continue blooding his youngsters in the cup, and the winners will have a decisive advantage in the Premier League game between the two next Tuesday.

A mixed Arsenal side will face a tough challenge against Newcastle, but the players will want to prove themselves after a huge defeat, and should manage to win even against a full strength Newcastle side. I predict a 2-1 win for the home side.