Newcastle must beat Norwich, no excuses

Posted by Marc Duffy

Shaun Botterill/Getty ImagesLoic Remy will look to continue his goal-scoring ways against visiting Norwich City.

With Jonas Gutierrez having returned to training this week, the only first team regular absent for Newcastle when they play Norwich City at St James' Park on Saturday will be the suspended Matthieu Debuchy.

- Report: Coloccini still keen to leave

After the superb victories (and clean sheets) against Chelsea and Tottenham in their last two games, Newcastle will be hoping to carry on the winning streak against a Norwich side who have struggled away from Carrow Road. In fact, only Sunderland and Crystal Palace have fewer points than the Canaries do on their travels.

Norwich have won only one of their five away games this season. They've lost all of the other four and conceded 14 goals -- just under three per game while only finding the net twice themselves and they travel to Newcastle without their 8.5 million pound striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel.

If you stopped a Newcastle fan on the street right now and asked him if he thought they'd beat Norwich, they'd probably say something along the lines of 'I hope so, but you never know with this lot'. Newcastle are your classic coupon busters -- defeat against a record-breakingly bad Sunderland side followed by wins over two sides who will be right in the mix come the end of the season.

Surprising home defeats have been fairly frequent under Alan Pardew's tenure. It is only a couple of months since Hull City deservedly left St James' with all three points and they haven't collected anything else away from home at all this season! That game looked to be a classic case of Newcastle scoring early and then assuming the win was in the bag. Hull caught them cold and Newcastle can't afford to let Norwich do the same.

Should Newcastle triumph, it will be the first time they'll have won three consecutive league games since April 2012. Newcastle won six on the bounce in that run including a win over Norwich, conceding only once, and they ended up finishing fifth. They'd overtake Manchester City with three points, until Sunday afternoon at least. Who would have predicted that after the 4-0 thrashing the Toon received at the Etihad on the opening round of this season’s fixtures?

They say 'don't change a winning team' but Debuchy's absence means Pardew will be forced into at least one alteration. If I was picking the team (which thankfully for you Newcastle fans out there, I'm not -- although I am a Football Manager legend!) I would line up with:

Tim Krul, Davide Santon, Massadio Haidara, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Mike Williamson, Cheick Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Moussa Sissoko, Hatem Ben Arfa, Loic Remy and Papiss Cisse.

Santon at right back? Why not -- he's a full-back and he's right-footed. It would be interesting to see if his delivery improved at being able to cross first time with his strong foot. Vurnon Anita is another who could easily play at right-back. He's a seasoned full-back (admittedly mostly as a left-back) and was excellent when he played there against Aston Villa last season.

My omission of Yoan Gouffran would be very harsh, too, but I see Norwich as being a great chance for Papiss Cisse to find the net and regain some confidence. If he doesn't improve soon, his time on the Tyne could come to an end.

I'd also include Ben Arfa at the expense of Shola Ameobi. The big Nigerian has done a great job as a hold up forward this past couple of games but Norwich have a back four well designed for the big men. They struggle more with finesse and a willing Ben Arfa could be vital.

Pardew won't pick either of these teams though. I expect him to move Yanga-Mbiwa to right-back and stick Fabricio Coloccini back in at centre-half leaving the rest of them as were.

And finally, it is always nice to see Chris Hughton come back to Tyneside. He is a gentleman and a firm fan favourite up here.

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy

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