West Brom can stop the Toon Army's march to the title
Championship leaders Newcastle host fellow title contenders West Brom on Monday night. It will be the first of two clashes between the two sides in the space of just six days as they meet in the FA Cup on Saturday as well.
The league match is by far the most important game though for the teams' chances of returning to the Premier League at the first attempt following last season's relegation.
The sides have been the two stand out teams in the Championship this season, but of late Nottingham Forest's great run coupled with West Brom's inconsistent form has seen the Baggies slip down to third place.
At the same time as the Baggies have been struggling, Newcastle have continued to march on and as a result heading into the match the gap between the two teams is six points.
If West Brom are to narrow Newcastle's lead to three points then they will have to improve on their disastrous record against the Toon Army.
The Championship table-toppers are unbeaten in the last 16 league meetings with the Baggies and West Brom have not recorded a victory at St James' Park since 1977.
Newcastle are also unbeaten at home this season with nine wins and three draws in the league. Therefore one would assume that the 1/3 in the double chance market about this continuing would appear to be a banker.
The Toon Army's success this season has been mainly down to a fantastic defence which has been breached just 14 times. They have accumulated an ultra impressive 14 clean sheets including six in their last eight league matches.
However, West Brom certainly have the firepower to hurt Newcastle. They need just one more goal to reach 50 for the season and it is for this reason that I prefer them at 23/10 to win the match as this is where the value lies.
The match though is really hard to call and you could quite easily make a case for a Newcastle win or the draw, but as the teams are of a similar quality one has to go for the biggest priced option.
The man who I think will claim the 50th goal for the Baggies is Simon Cox and he is priced at 7/1 to open the scoring.
For Newcastle it is harder to pick out a potential scorer as they have really shared the goals this season with 14 different players contributing.
The one that appeals the most is Jonas Gutierrez. The Argentine winger has been impressive this term although he hasn't really found his scoring boots as he has only scored one goal. But at 5/1 I am willing to take a chance on him notching his second of the season.
Viewers should get to witness a good advert for the Championship as the best defence takes on the best attack in this crucial clash. A win for Newcastle could well put West Brom out of the title race, but I don't think this will be the case, as the Baggies bid to change their terrible record at St James' Park.