Glory days back on Tyneside?
Newcastle v Everton - Saturday 12:45 - live on Sky Sports 2
At the start of the season, most Newcastle supporters would have been forgiven for indulging in a precautious pessimism with regards to the upcoming campaign. They had failed to replace the departed Andy Carroll and his £35 million transfer fee remained unspent, last season's top goalscorer Kevin Nolan had linked up with former mentor Sam Allardyce in the Championship, and midfield spark Joey Barton was tweeting to anyone who would listen about his discontentment on Tyneside.
Fast forward to November and the grey clouds that engulfed St James' Park have now disappeared, replaced in the northeast skyline by a rainbow of Tyne Bridge proportions. After 10 games of the Premier League season the Geordies sit in an impressive third position, still unbeaten as we enter the fourth month of the campaign.
Monday's 3-1 victory away at Stoke was huge for Alan Pardew's men. They came through the Britannia gauntlet not only unscathed but with their reputation massively enhanced after battling toe-to-toe with Stoke and coming away with three richly deserved points. That is more than most can say.
The foundations for their run have been a togetherness and spirit not seen on Tyneside for a long time, creating a real momentum. Another productive result against the Toffees on Saturday lunchtime would help to add extra buoyancy to the mood within the Newcastle camp, and the omens look good.
United have lost only once to Everton at St James' since 2000 and are priced at 11/8 to emerge victorious once again. However, that one defeat did arrive in March last season when David Moyes' men took all three points back to Merseyside. That reverse was actually Newcastle's last in the league at home and if you feel Everton can triumph once again, they can be backed at odds of 2/1.
This will be the 161st time these sides have met in all competitions; each side has recorded 63 wins, with 34 draws. For another stalemate to occur on this occasion, you'll find odds of 11/5.
The Toffees could not be heading north at a worse time really. They come into this match on the back of a 1-0 home loss to Manchester United, a match where they saw plenty of possession but lacked any attacking threat and the absence of a clinical striker was really evident. David Moyes must cast an envious eye towards Demba Ba (5/1 first scorer, 5/4 anytime). Ba's eight goals in the last five matches are only two fewer than Everton's entire total this season, and tellingly they've come from eight different players.
That lack of goals has seen them lose four of their last five matches and drop to 16th position in the league table, dangerously close to the relegation zone.
Both teams have key individuals returning to the starting line-ups this weekend. For the hosts it is the Ivory Coast star Cheikh Tiote welcomed back, the midfielder is expected to take the place of Danny Guthrie. One player who is definitely out of Alan Pardew's plans though is Gabriel Obertan, who misses out due to illness.
Everton expect to have Australian Tim Cahill (8/1 first scorer, 11/4 anytime) back in action in what will be his 200th appearance in the famous blue shirt. Sylvin Distin and Phil Neville could also join Cahill back in the starting eleven, as could Royston Drenthe, who is available for selection following suspension.
For this match I'm going to have to side with Newcastle in a low scoring affair. They have the best defence in the league, based on consistency where seven players have played every match so far this season, and I cannot see Everton breaking through. My tips are Newcastle Win and Under 2.5 goals at 16/5 in the Match x Goals market and also Newcastle to win to nil at 13/5.