St James’ Park - Premier League
Newcastle welcome Arsenal to St James’ Park on Sunday, in a fixture which has provided plenty of excitement during the Premier League era. Despite sitting in the top half of the table, the Magpies are still two short of the magical 40-point mark, while the Gunners have a Europa League semi-final to look forward to.
The last few games between the sides have been dull in comparison with others over recent years, with Arsenal winning all of the last three 1-0. In fact, the Gunners have won each of the last 10 meetings, including a 7-3 success in 2012. Newcastle’s last win was at the Emirates in October 2010, with the return fixture a 4-4 draw at St James’.
Jesus Gamez is the only injury concern for Rafa Benitez, although as the Spanish right-back has only played twice in the Premier League this season, he’ll hardly be a major miss. Other than that, the hosts have a full squad available.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is the biggest miss for Arsenal, with the Armenian forward expected to be out for most of the season with a knee injury. Granit Xhaka and Ainsley Maitland-Niles should be fit to return, with Arsene Wenger expected to shuffle his pack following Thursday’s trip to Moscow.
Newcastle v Arsenal Preview and Predictions
Despite a pretty big scare at 2-0 down with just 15 minutes remaining, Arsenal came through a nervy encounter against CSKA Moscow to secure their Europa League semi-final spot. Although Benitez has refused to acknowledge his team’s Premier League status has been assured after last season’s promotion, the job’s all but done with six games left to play.
The Magpies have won their last three games, and now boast a 10-point lead over 18th-placed Southampton, who face Chelsea at the weekend. It’s all been about survival after a typically eventful season in the North East, and as the threat of relegation subsides, Newcastle could come out of their shell even more in Sunday’s early kick-off.
The home side still start as underdogs in the betting though, priced at 12/5. Arsenal are available at 5/4, but their priorities for the remainder of the season now lie firmly elsewhere. Just like it became for Manchester United last season, the Europa League is now the only passage back into the Champions League for the Emirates outfit.
While semi-final opponents Atletico Madrid are the favourites to lift the European crown, another strong side in Lazio were dumped out on Thursday, with Marseille or RB Salzburg waiting in the final. Wenger could easily ring the changes for the weekend’s trip north, and if you think that’ll result in a disjointed performance that ends in a stalemate, you can back the draw at 27/10.
Arsenal to win and both teams to score at 4/1
The visitors are favourites as they look to extend their 12-match unbeaten run against Newcastle. After conceding twice against both CSKA and Southampton in their last two games, the Gunners are vulnerable at the back though.
Newcastle to win to nil at 28/5
However, the Magpies have won their last three games at St James’ without conceding a single goal. Two of them were 1-0 victories - including against Manchester United - and a repeat of that scoreline is 12/1, or 70/1 with Ayoze Perez as the scorer.