There is most definitely a spring in the step of Newcastle United fans at present and rightly so.
Tuesday’s capture of Senegal international striker Papiss Cisse coupled with the Magpies occupying a top six spot is daring the Geordie faithful to start dreaming again.
With Newcastle pushing for a European place you quickly forget this was a club playing Championship football just over 18 months ago.
Alan Pardew’s side will climb to fifth in the Premier League with a draw at Fulham tomorrow, with Arsenal hosting Manchester United on Sunday. However, don’t for one second think Pardew will be aiming for one point at Craven Cottage when his side have proven this season they are capable of going away and picking up maximum spoils.
Given Newcastle’s form they will be slight favourites in this meeting, but with fellow Europe chasers Liverpool and Arsenal both losing at the Cottage this season it is by no means a foregone conclusion.
After a difficult start to life back in London Martin Jol’s side were starting to find form, only to be beaten by a 10-man relegation threatened Blackburn last weekend.
The Cottagers currently sit 14th, but with this the first of back-to-back home league games Jol will know this is a great opportunity to climb the table.
Inconsistency has been Fulham’s achilles heel this season, but after a defeat last week it would be typical of their campaign if they were to pick up three points against yet another side with European aspirations.
Newcastle are looking for a third consecutive Premier League win but won’t want reminding of this fixture last season. Following the sale of Andy Carroll just days prior it was arguably the Magpies’ worst performance of the season, with Damien Duff scoring against his former club in a 1-0 victory for the home side.
Much has changed on Tyneside since that miserable evening in west London with the club now deservedly competing with the country’s elite.
One contributing factor to Newcastle’s rise is the form of Yohan Cabaye in his debut season in English football. The Frenchman however is a doubt for tomorrow’s trip so Pardew could revert to the three of Danny Guthrie, Ryan Taylor and Jonas Gutierrez as he did against QPR last week, with Hatem Ben Arfa and Leon Best on either side.
Without his African trio of Demba Ba, Cheick Tiote and new-boy Papiss Cisse, Pardew’s squad is thinner than he would like, but with a 100% winning record since the departure of said players Newcastle will no doubt be full of confidence.
Craven Cottage can be an intimidating place to go and Fulham will want to take full advantage of that. They have proven that on their day they can be a match for most in the division, but it will depend on which Fulham turns up tomorrow that could determine this encounter.