Getting to know New(castle)

Posted by James Whittaker

Ryan ShawcrossGettyImagesRyan Shawcross won his first England cap earlier this month

Tomorrow Stoke will welcome the Magpies into town (as long as there is more than one we'll be okay) as they look to extend their magnificent home record.

Looking around the opposition message boards, which I always do in advance of a game, there seems to be an almost alarming amount of negativity in the North East which culminated in an easy win for Southampton at the weekend. Saints dominated from start to finish amidst increasing unrest amongst the travelling faithful of Newcastle.

I thought I would take advantage of the vast array of ESPN writers and pull in Newcastle reporter Marc Duffy for questioning to get his thoughts on their season so far and tomorrow's game.

Your form since Pardew signed his record breaking deal has taken a bit of a nosedive – what's going on? There are a number of factors - injuries, tactics and belief. It looks like Pardew has decided to alter our formation to accommodate a player and it has not worked at all. Add to that the fact we have sent more long balls than any other side in the league by quite some way versus the mix-and-match passing of last season and things have not been pretty at all. We have a couple of great forwards but neither of them are 'target men' and they haven't adapted to the 'hoof'. We have had injuries to almost every key player too which hasn't helped but the squad is thin - we all knew this was a real possibility at some point.

Have you enjoyed your European adventure so far or has it been an annoyance? I love it. The only annoyance is the claim by some that this is what has been the main cause of our poor league form - rubbish. The idea that we should rest our best players in order to concentrate on trying to qualify for Europe next season totally baffles me.

What's the best way to beat Newcastle? At the moment - just by playing them! West Ham beat us by playing a direct game. Swansea beat us playing quick, counter-attacking football. Southampton beat us by playing some nice football almost constantly in our half - three differing styles, three wins for the opposition.

Ba scored a hat-trick here last season - will he be the player to watch? Very much so - Demba is currently the second top scorer in the league with eight. We have only managed 13 in total which shows how vital his goals have been.

What is your view of Stoke City, as an outsider? I wrote in a season preview for 442 last year that you have the best atmosphere in the league. That plus the physically dominant nature of your team make the Britannia one of the most difficult places to go - which is why Gary Neville said that our win there last season was one of the most complete away performances he has seen since the Premier League began. I am not expecting the same this season though.

If Newcastle could sign one Stoke player, who would it be? My fellow Newcastle supporters probably won't agree with me here but I would take Shawcross. We have struggled in central defence this year with Taylor regularly picking up injuries and Williamson is nowhere near good enough.

And finally, what's your prediction? Everything points to a comfortable Stoke win, but it's a funny old game...

Thanks to Marc for taking the time to remove his head from the gas oven to field a few of my questions; if you fancy hearing more of what he has to say you can find him on Twitter @MarcSDuffy

As for my prediction, I'm going to be optimistic and say that we will maintain our unbeaten run at the Britannia with a 2-0 win!

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