Magpies go Eagle hunting

Posted by Marc Duffy

Graham Stuart/Getty ImagesAlan Pardew, left, and Tony Pulis will meet again Saturday. Pulis took over at Crystal Palace eight months after he was sacked at Stoke.

Newcastle United head to Selhurst Park on Saturday to play a resurgent Crystal Palace.

Since the arrival of track-suited, cap-wearing Welshman Tony Pulis, Palace have climbed to 18th in the league and currently sit in seventh place in the form table (Newcastle are four).

Palace have won both of their home league games since Pulis replaced Ian Holloway as manager, and they've also managed to keep three clean sheets in his five games to date -- impressive considering they had conceded 21 goals in the previous 11 league games!

Even more impressive has been the form of ex-Arsenal flop Marouane Chamakh. The French-born Moroccan international has gone from nine goals in his first 56 games in England to three goals in his last three games.

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew should receive a very rare warm welcome from the home fans. He played 128 times for Palace in the 1980s and '90s, including the 1990 FA Cup Final loss to Manchester United. He is a bit of a Palace legend -- the home fans used to sing his name!

Pardew was linked with the Palace manager's job before Pulis took it but was never likely to leave Tyneside for the Eagles then.

As ever, Pardew has been building up the opposition in the run-up .

"Tony plays a brand of football that's tough to play against," Pardew said. "It's physically demanding and at times direct. To play against it, you need to be able to stand up and be counted. All his teams have tested better teams than us in that way, and won."

Despite those words, arguably Newcastle's best away performance under Pardew came against Pulis when he was managing Stoke City. Newcastle thrashed the Potters 3-1 back in November 2011 -- a performance that Gary Neville described as one of the most complete away performances by any team in the Premier League era.

Newcastle have won their last four games at Selhurst Park. This fixture was last played in the Championship in August 2009, and Newcastle left with a comfortable 2-0 win that day. The Magpies have not lost at Selhurst Park since January 1984.

Tough it may be, but Newcastle have no excuses. It will be a more difficult game than it would have been earlier on in the season but Newcastle's form makes this a much harder game for Palace, too.

Newcastle need to prove that they are up for all games on the road and not just the glamour ties. Tremendous victories away to Tottenham and Manchester United have been interspersed with abysmal showings away to Sunderland and Swansea City. They need to show that they are motivated and well organised to beat Crystal Palace, and they should.

Newcastle have benefited from a tremendous change in fortunes on the injury front this season. While last year Pardew struggled to name consistent teams, this year to date they have regularly had less injuries than most other clubs. Could this be down to the arrival of fitness consultant Faye Downey?

On the other hand, Palace have more injuries than anyone else with nine players missing recently.

Yohan Cabaye returns from suspension, meaning that the only player Pardew is unable to pick is long-term injury victim, Ryan Taylor.

Newcastle can't climb igher than their current sixth place with a win, but Palace could climb out of the relegation zone and up to 16th if results go their way.

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy



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