After surrendering the only unbeaten record in English football to Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday evening, Newcastle could be forgiven for seeking an easier task than a trip to the Britannia Stadium for their next outing.
The Magpies went in to the mid-week Carling Cup tie at Ewood Park the only English club unbeaten in all competitions this season. Conceding in the final minute of extra time saw to that though, as Alan Pardew’s side went down 4-3 in what was a lively encounter.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Newcastle after recovering from a two goal deficit, however it is that never say die attitude that boss Pardew will require from his team when they travel to Stoke City on Monday evening in the Premier League.
Barring current title favourites Manchester City, the Magpies are the only side that remain unbeaten in the top flight, sitting alongside Chelsea in fourth spot on 19 points.
Monday’s trip to Stoke could prove to be Newcastle’s toughest test of the season so far, with no team yet to win at the Britannia in the league this season.
If the Magpies aim to extend their unbeaten league run to 13 games they will have to match Tony Pulis’ men for physicality, as well as deal with the electrifying atmosphere the City fans provide. Better footballing teams than Newcastle have come away from the Britannia empty handed in the past; making it imperative the Magpies are equal to their hosts in all departments.
Pardew will be hoping he can call upon both Steven Taylor and Cheik Tiote, both of whom are doubtful with a broken nose and a knee problem respectively.
Newcastle won’t want reminding of last season’s demolition at Stoke, as the Potters completed the league double over the Magpies with a 4-0 win. A tighter affair is expected this time out though, with the visitors currently boasting the tightest defence in the league – conceding only six goals.
Even the most of optimistic Newcastle fans couldn’t have predicted this start to the season, however it is tough trips to the likes of Stoke that will really show Pardew what his side are made of.
If Newcastle cope with the physical side of Stoke’s game then there is no reason why they can’t continue their unbeaten league run. Much has been made of Newcastle’s team spirit this season, and that will no doubt be called upon in what will be a thankless 90 minutes of football.
Pardew’s men have remained unscathed from whatever the Premier League has thrown at them this season, so confidence will no doubt be high within the visiting camp and the travelling support.
Approximately 4,500 Geordies descended on Blackburn in mid-week and it is their unquestionable support that Newcastle will look to as a 12th man to combat the increased noise the Potters’ fans never fail to provide.
Stoke’s impressive home form stands in the Magpies’ way. A tough test will no doubt ensue, but it’s how the visitors respond which will determine the outcome of this game.
If Newcastle are up for a physical battle there is no reason why they can’t come away with at least a point in what will be one of their toughest games of the season.