An improving Newcastle face another crunch clash in their battle to avoid the drop as they welcome back Alan Pardew and his Crystal Palace side, who will be in confident mood with an FA Cup Final to look forward to next month.
The Magpies produced a stirring comeback to claim an important point at Anfield last weekend and need to follow that up with three points this weekend to put pressure on Norwich and Sunderland in the relegation scrap.
Newcastle’s performances under manager Rafael Benitez have left fans frustrated that the change in the dugout did not occur earlier; the board’s hesitation in removing Steve McClaren may end up costing the Toon their Premier League status.
Goal difference could yet be crucial in the relegation fight, and Newcastle’s leaky defence may end up being the decisive factor; the Tyneside outfit have shipped 64 goals this season, a tally only Aston Villa have surpassed.
Opposing boss Pardew returns to the club where he spent four turbulent years and is set to receive a mixed reception from the home faithful as he looks to put another nail in the hosts’ relegation coffin.
Despite the Palace manager claiming he is “desperate” for his former side to stay up, there can be no doubt that he would relish the chance to get one over Newcastle and the fans who never really took to him during his Tyneside tenure.
The Eagles are winless in three matches and have won just one league match in 2016, but their cup semi-final win over Watford last weekend has provided a much-needed boost ahead of their final league fixtures.
Newcastle remain without goalkeepers Tim Krul and Rob Elliot, plus defenders Daryl Janmaat, Massadio Haidara and Fabricio Coloccini; but Yoan Gouffran is available for selection and Steven Taylor is nearing a return.
The visitors have doubts over winger Wilfried Zaha – who scored their 95th-minute equaliser at St. James’ Park last season – but have an otherwise fully fit squad to choose from.
League Positions: Newcastle – 19th (30 pts); Crystal Palace – 16th (39 pts)
Previous Meeting: Crystal Palace 5-1 Newcastle – November 28, 2015
Form: Newcastle – DLLWDD; Crystal Palace – LDWDDL
Key Players: Newcastle – Andros Townsend; Crystal Palace – Connor Wickham
Shoot Says: Newcastle 2-1 Crystal Palace