Stoke V Newcastle at Britannia Stadium : Match Preview
30 October 2011 11:31
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Woodgate set to face Magpies
Jonathan Woodgate could start against his former club Newcastle in the Barclays Premier League on Monday night after returning to the Stoke side for Wednesday's Carling Cup match with Liverpool.
Woodgate played the full 90 minutes of the 2-1 defeat having missed the previous three games with a calf injury, while Jermaine Pennant might also be
involved having appeared as a second-half replacement against the Reds following a hamstring injury.
Danny Higginbotham, out since April with a serious knee injury, is on the comeback trail and has turned out for the reserves but striker Mamady Sidibe is facing another spell on the sidelines after suffering a knee injury.
Stoke go into the 10th round of the season in ninth spot, seven points behind Newcastle.
The Potters have suffered a couple of setbacks in their last two matches, losing 3-1 at Arsenal in the league last weekend before being knocked out of the Carling Cup fourth round by Liverpool on Wednesday.
Kenwyne Jones gave Tony Pulis' men the lead in that match just before half-time, but Liverpool striker Luis Suarez netted twice in the second half to
send his side through.
However, that was Stoke's first home loss in nine home games in all competitions this season, and having previously managed to avoid defeat against
the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool - who they beat 1-0 in the league in September - at the Britannia, home supporters will be optimistic of getting a good result against Newcastle.
Bosnian goalkeeper Asmir Begovic nevertheless remains wary of the threat posed by their opponents though, saying: "We have done pretty well this season, especially at home, and one or two people may expect us to win Monday's game. We will hopefully do that, but we are under no illusions as to how good a team Newcastle are.
"They aren't a one-man team, they have players in every position who we need to keep an eye on. The lads they signed in the summer have gelled together very well, and without doubt this will be one of the toughest games of our season so far.
"I think they have a very good squad and we know the quality that they have. It's obviously good for them that they are doing well, but we will be out there on Monday doing everything we can to make sure we come out on top."
Stoke boss Pulis echoed the comments of his goalkeeper, saying: "It's going to be a tough game for us, they've got off to a really really good start.
"I've watched a couple of games and they look settled, that's the big thing. If you actually look at the team, they haven't changed the team very much and I think that's helped them. They've got a good understanding as a group, they look a team, a good team."
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew could include midfielder Cheik Tiote and defender Steven Taylor in his starting line-up.
Taylor, who broke his nose in last weekend's 1-0 victory over Wigan, is the more likely to play, possibly with a mask, while Tiote is battling to recover from a knee injury.
Pardew is determined not to let himself become fixated on Stoke's strengths.
The Magpies lost the equivalent fixture 4-0 last season, a result Pardew believes can be partly put down to giving Stoke the psychological advantage.
The Britannia Stadium is considered one of the toughest trips in the Premier League because of a combination of the Potters' physical prowess and their vocal fans.
Pardew said: "Physically and mentally it's a test, and it's a test we failed last year, and I must take some blame for that defeat.
"It was probably the only game that got away from us, and maybe I put too much emphasis on what Stoke did rather than hurting them, and I won't make that mistake again, but it's still very difficult to defend against and we need our warriors and we need people to stand up and concentrate."