Newcastle United go in search of only their second win in nine games when they welcome a Manchester United side still reeling from their shock defeat to Blackburn to St James Park on Wednesday evening.
The pressure will be on both teams following the opening results of 2012 with Stoke’s 2-1 win over Blackburn moving them a point behind 7th place Newcastle while Manchester City’s 3-0 win over Liverpool moved them three points clear at the top.
The sides drew 1-1 when they met at Old Trafford in November, Demba Ba’s controversial penalty cancelling out Javier Hernandez’s opener.
Newcastle were impressive that evening despite needing help for the equaliser, the same of which can be said of all their performances against the top six however despite all that Newcastle have yet to taste victory against ony of the big sides.
Newcastle will make a late check on the fitness of Gabriel Obertan ahead of the game with the former United midfielder struggling with an infected toe however it is expected that he will be fit to play.
Danny Guthrie and Peter Lovenkrands won’t be fit for the United game due to groin and calf injuries however the pair are close to a return to the squad while long term absentee’s Steven Taylor and Sylvain Marveaux remain out.
Hatem Ben Arfa could start are two substitute appearances over the festive season while Sir Alex Ferguson will get an up close look at reported target Cheike Tiote who leads the Newcastle midfield.
United welcomes back Chris Smalling and Rio Ferdinand to the squad and the pair should feature at St James’s Park while Ferguson should also recall Wayne Rooney to the starting eleven after he was left out of the squad for the Blackburn match following a reported night out with Darron Gibson and Jonny Evans.
Gibson, who has been linked with Everton, undid all the good of a strong performance against Wigan in his first Premier League game of the season with the night out also costing him his place in the squad. With the transfer window now open Gibson may not get another chance to impress.
Newcastle (from): Krul, Elliot, Harper, Simpson, R Taylor, Santon, Ferguson, Perch, Coloccini, Williamson, Kadar, Tiote, Cabaye, Obertan, Ben Arfa, Gutierrez, Sammy Ameobi, Gosling, Abeid, Vuckic, Ba, Best, Shola Ameobi.
Manchester United (from): De Gea, Lindegaard, Amos, Rafael, Ferdinand, Smalling, Evra, Jones, Fryers, Cole, Carrick, Valencia, Park, Gibson, Anderson, Nani, Giggs, Rooney, Welbeck, Berbatov, Hernandez, Diouf, Keane.