Arsenal enter 2016 top of the Premier League and will remain there come Saturday evening if they can overcome an out-of-form Newcastle side at the Emirates.
The Gunners recovered from a surprise Boxing Day mauling at Southampton to comfortably see off Bournemouth on Monday, with Mesut Ozil continuing his sparkling form as he scored one and set up the other.
The German midfielder already has a remarkable 16 assists to his name this season, form which has seen his manager Arsene Wenger compare him to Gunners legend Dennis Bergkamp.
Arsenal have won four of their last five matches in the Premier League, and also have a strong recent record in this fixture; they have beaten their opponents this weekend in the last four matches between the two sides at the Emirates, scoring 16 times in the process.
Consecutive defeats over the festive period was a fitting way to round off what has been a miserable 2015 on Tyneside; Newcastle’s tally of seven wins in the calendar year is the lowest in their 123-year history.
Steve McClaren’s men are languishing in the bottom three, with Monday’s lacklustre 1-0 defeat at West Brom leaving the Toon two points adrift of safety going into the New Year.
They did, however, cause a shock on their last visit to North London; three weeks ago Ayoze Perez’s last minute winner ended Tottenham’s long unbeaten record, and McClaren will be desperate for a similarly unlikely result this weekend to lift the pressure on him and his side.
Mathieu Flamini could return for the hosts after sitting out the Bournemouth match, but this weekend comes too soon for Alexis Sanchez to make his return.
Vurnon Anita joins a lengthy list of absentees for Newcastle, which is also likely to include goalkeeper Rob Elliot. Karl Darlow – who looked shaky at the Hawthorns on Monday and was at fault for Darren Fletcher’s winner – will continue to deputise in the Irishman’s absence, whilst Emmanuel Riviere and Rolando Aarons are back in contention after lengthy lay-offs.
League Position: Arsenal – 1st (39 pts); Newcastle – 18th (17 pts)
Last Meeting: Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal (August 29, 2015)
Form: Arsenal – DWWWLW; Newcastle – LWWDLL
Key Players: Arsenal – Mesut Ozil; Newcastle – Fabricio Coloccini
Shoot Says: Arsenal 4-0 Newcastle