Newcastle And Arsenal – Match Preview

Andrey Arshavin

Newcastle and Arsenal kick off their Premier League campaign at St James’ Park in a repeat of one of the games of last season.

The Magpies produced an astonishing comeback from 4-0 down in February to salvage the most unlikely of draws and deliver a hammer blow toArsenal’s title hopes.

While it is hard to envisage quite the same level of drama unfolding on Saturday evening, it will be intriguing to see how both teams perform after uncomfortable summers.

Newcastle have had to contend with criticism of the club’s board from Joey Barton and Jose Enrique, while their transfer business has raised eyebrows.

The sale of Kevin Nolan to West Ham was a major surprise considering his influence last season, while there have not been the big-money signings that were promised following Andy Carroll’s £35million switch to Liverpool in January.

The players that Alan Pardew has recruited are exciting but largely untried in the Premier League, with the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Sylvain Marveaux and Mehdi Abeid coming in from Ligue 1.

Gabriel Obertan and Senegal international Demba Ba have also joined to swell Newcastle’s French-speaking contingent, while Hatem Ben Arfa will feel like a new arrival after a double leg fracture marred his first season at the club.

Ben Arfa did suffer a fresh injury to his ankle in pre-season that forced him out of Newcastle’s tour of America, and is not fit for the start of the season.

Key midfielder Cheick Tiote only arrived in England earlier this week after a delay in getting his visa renewed, but Pardew is ready to put him straight into the side.

Enrique is on the verge of securing a move to Liverpool, leaving Pardew with limited options at left-back.

If Newcastle have endured an awkward couple of months, then little has happened at Arsenal to appease supporters since they ended a sixth successive season without silverware.

Ivory Coast international Gervinho is the only major addition to the squad and much of the speculation has surrounded the futures of star duo Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.

Arsene Wenger has announced that Barcelona target Fabregas and Nasri, who has been linked with Manchester City, will both sit out the fixture on Tyneside.

Abou Diaby is also set to be sidelined until September following ankle surgery and Jack Wilshere has still not recovered from an injury he picked up in pre-season.

However, Robin van Persie, Thomas Vermaelen, Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Andrey Arshavin are all expected to be available after shrugging off minor fitness concerns.

Possible starting XIs

Newcastle: Harper, Simpson, Steven Taylor, Coloccini, Ryan Taylor, Barton, Tiote, Cabaye, Gutierrez, Ba, Ameobi.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Djourou, Gibbs, Walcott, Song, Ramsey, Arshavin, Van Persie, Gervinho.

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