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Newcastle v Middlesbrough preview

11 May 2009 10:34:51

Newcastle v Middlesbrough preview

Newcastle United entertain local rivals Middlesbrough in the most eagerly awaited Tyne-Tees derby in years. The two clubs are entrenched in the relegation battle, with only goal difference separating them. West Brom's weekend win now means that the three bottom clubs are all level on points, but all are within touching distance of Hull City. Both Newcastle and Boro realise that victory would put them in a great position to save themselves - whilst defeat would almost certainly spell relegation. Despite their horrendous form, Newcastle will take heart for the game in the knowledge they have an excellent record against Boro. The Teessiders have won only once in their last 13 visits to St James' Park - that came in 2001 when Alen Boksic grabbed a brace. Newcastle could do well to start with former Boro star Mark Viduka, as he has scored five goals in his last four starts against his one-time employers. Newcastle go into the match with a number of selection issues. Joey Barton is suspended following his red-card at Liverpool and Alan Smith - who started in midfield alongside him - is rated very doubtful. With Barton and Smith out, another former Boro man - Geremi, could get a call, whilst Kevin Nolan will also be hoping to get a recall. Jose Enrique continues to struggle for fitness and Damien Duff again looks set to be pressed into duty as an emergency left-back. One real boost for Shearer could be the return of Steven Taylor, who is recovering well from his ankle problem. Boro also have injury worries and selection conundrums ahead of the clash. In defence captain Emanuel Pogatetz is out, whilst Andrew Taylor is back in the squad and he will be hoping to start at left-back although Gareth Southgate may stick with Justin Hoyte. There is concern that David Wheater may not make the match, which would present a real issue for Boro with Chris Riggott already sidelined. Southgate is likely to drop Matthew Bates back into defence, following his recent stint in midfield, although Rhys Williams - back from his impressive loan spell at Burnley - also now comes into the equation. If Bates does move to defence, then Julio Arca or Didier Digard will come into midfield. Up-front, Afonso Alves is likely to come in to replace Marlon King with either Tuncay or Jeremie Aliadiere his partner. Whoever does not figure up front will likely take a midfield role. Possible starting XIs: Newcastle: Harper, Beye, Coloccini, Bassong, Duff, Geremi, Nolan, Butt, Martins, Viduka, Owen Middlesbrough: Jones, Williams, Bates, Huth, Hoyte, Downing, O'Neil, Arca, Tuncay, Aliadiere, Alves


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