Newcastle United v Norwich City - Paddy Davitt’s prediction
17:05 16 March 2012
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Norwich City would have picked easier destinations to arrest a run of no wins in their last four. Newcastle’s impressive home form has been the backbone of a concerted push for European competition.
The Magpies have only lost twice in the north-east this season - although they left it late to salvage a share of the spoils against Sunderland last time out and squandered a two-goal lead to struggling Wolves before that.
Two results which the Canaries can draw strength from. Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse look a formidable front pairing, but the African duo’s partnership remains a work in progress. Neverthless, you suspect John Ruddy will again be tested with the hosts’ needing all three points after their own recent blip, and driven on by a raucous home crowd.
The Geordies may not have the deep central defensive injury crisis that proved their undoing at Carrow Road, but the likes of Grant Holt and Steve Morison can still wreak havoc - given the right service. Midfield is always a key battleground; none more so than against a quartet that fuses the combative Cheick Tiote - if fit - and the classy Frenchman Yohan Cabaye. Supplemented by international options out wide in the likes of Jonas Gutierrez and Hatem Ben Arfa.
Whichever personnel Paul Lambert selects, establishing parity in those central areas is a must. Jonny Howson’s availability is a major bonus in that respect. Given both clubs’ willingness to attack, you would think goals are a guaranteed outcome. Norwich certainly won’t be fazed by the big stage, as they have proved countless times this season. If they can dig in when the storm is at its height, they certainly have the ammunition at the opposite end of the pitch to match both Wolves and rivals Sunderland.
• Newcastle United 2, Norwich City 1