Relegation threatened West Ham travel to Tyneside to face Newcastle United in the hopes of climbing out of the drop zone on Wednesday night.
The Hammers have had a happy Christmas and look to prosper in the New Year by extending their four game unbeaten run at St James Park against an unpredictable Newcastle United team.
Avram Grant’s position was said to be under threat in the lead up to the Christmas fixtures which often prove make or break for sides at the wrong end of the table, but his prospects began to improve when his team came from a goal down to win 3-1 at Fulham on Boxing Day.
Since then, a draw against Everton and victory over fellow strugglers Wolverhampton has dramatically improved West Ham’s survival chances; a win on Wednesday will put them two points behind Newcastle who are currently in tenth place.
Newcastle’s new boss Alan Pardew has much to prove to Newcastle fans who were dumbfounded at the decision to replace his predecessor, Chris Hughton.
He got off to a flying start with an unexpected 3-1 win over Liverpool, but things turned bleak with two successive defeats denying the Geordie nation any festive cheer.
Without the services of 11-goal striker Andy Carroll, Pardew’s team emerged victorious in a crucial encounter with Wigan at the DW Stadium on Sunday and come into this fixture with renewed confidence thanks to Shola Ameobi’s far post tap-in.
Carroll is unlikely to re-appear before the derby game with Sunderland on 16 January but with Ameobi showing he can find the net and midfielder Kevin Nolan, who scores at a rate to shame many Premier League strikers, Pardew will hope he has enough firepower to see off the Hammers.
Nolan has scored eight in sixteen games for the Magpies this season and Irish bookmaker Boylesports is offering odds of 11/5 for the midfielder to score at any time on Wednesday.
Newcastle have no new injury worries, Hatem Ben Arfa (broken leg) and Ryan Taylor (ankle) are long term absentees while Sol Campbell has not recovered from the illness that has kept him out since the Liverpool game more than three weeks ago.
Grant’s West Ham squad has been ravaged by injury in the first half of the season and he has a number of players approaching fitness.
He will check on Lars Jacobsen and Valon Behrami who could be ready to return and midfielder Mark Noble is up for selection having returned from his hip injury.
But still on the sidelines are Kieron Dyer (thigh), Herita Ilunga (leg), Benni McCarthy (calf), Thomas Hitzlsperger (thigh), Jack Collison (knee) and Manuel da Costa (ankle).
Possible starting line ups:
NEWCASTLE: Harper, Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini, Jose Enrique, Barton, Nolan, Tiote, Gutierrez, Lovenkrands, Ameobi.
WEST HAM: Green; Ben-Haim, Tomkins, Upson, Gabbidon, Sears, Parker, Kovac, Boa Morte, Cole, Piquionne.