Good evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for tonight's Premier League clash as Stoke City
host Newcastle United
at the Britannia Stadium. Neither side have quite found their best form so far this season, so both will be desperate for three important points this evening. We should have an intriguing encounter ahead of us, with two evenly-matched teams going head to head. Let's start with a look at the home side...
Inconsistent is perhaps the best word to describe Stoke City's performances so far this season. They have amassed just five points from their five league outings so far, with some hugely disappointing results mixed in with a magnificent victory away to Manchester City. That win, courtesy of a fine Diouf solo effort at the Etihad, remains their only maximum points haul of the current campaign, but they should be fairly confident of doubling that tally this evening.
Wins over the likes of City are, of course, great for a side like Stoke, but their season will really be shaped by their matches against the teams expected to finish around them in the table. They haven't fared too well in that respect so far, losing to Aston Villa and Leicester City while being held to draws against Hull City and Queens Park Rangers. Before the season began, Hughes would have looked at their opening fixture list and marked four of their first five games as winnable. However, they have failed to win in any of those four, instead picking up maximum points when least expected.
Their last league outing will probably have frustrated Hughes more than any of the others. His side were minutes away from picking up their second win of the campaign, only for Niko Kranjcar to score a superb free kick to rescue a 2-2 draw for QPR. Stoke squandered the lead twice in that match, and they will need to protect advantages more effectively if they are to pick up the points that their performances have warranted so far.
They do come into this match on the back of a win, however, having eliminated Sunderland from the League Cup on Tuesday. Marc Muniesa was the unlikely match winner, scoring two goals to hand his side a 2-1 victory at the Stadium of Light. Although Sunderland haven't had the best of starts to the season themselves, results like that will give Stoke a lot of confidence - particularly considering the Black Cats reached the final of the League Cup last season.
The fact that they won away from home ties in with Stoke's performances so far this season. All of their success so far has come on their travels, with the Britannia not living up to its reputation as a fortress. The Potters have played two games at home in the league this season and have lost both by a solitary goal to nil. Both opponents, Aston Villa and Leicester, are teams they would have expected to beat, and their home form is an issue that Hughes will be keen to address sooner rather than later, starting tonight. They are now the only side in the division not to have scored at home this season.
That is even more puzzling considering how strong Stoke were at home under Hughes last season. They boasted the sixth best record in the division in front of their own fans, with the only sides above them in that respect finishing as the top five in the league. They were only beaten three times at home throughout 2013-14, but already they have lost twice there this season.
Goals have been in relatively short supply in matches involving Stoke in the current campaign, with just one of their league clashes seeing more than two. They are averaging one goal conceded per game so far, but have limited their opponents to just 11 shots on target so far this season - the lowest tally in the division.
Newcastle haven't quite been as tight at the back so far this season, already leaking 11 goals in their opening five matches. No fewer than nine of those have come in their last three outings, but Alan Pardew
will at least be confident that he has enough quality at the other end to counteract their defensive issues to some extent. Of course, the porous nature of his backline needs to be addressed, but he will feel that his side are on the verge of improvement at both ends of the field.
Improvement is certainly needed following a dreadful start to the season. They are one of just three teams still without a victory in the league so far, alongside Burnley and Sunderland, and that first victory cannot come soon enough for Pardew. He is coming under increasing pressure, with owner Mike Ashley reportedly saying that he had just one match to save his job. Defeat this evening, then, could be the final time we see Pardew in the Newcastle dugout.
Ashley has since insisted that he was joking about Pardew's apparent impending fate, but he will not ignore the club's form for too much longer, regardless of how long Pardew still has left on his contract. The Magpies have won just one of their last 13 Premier League matches stretching back to last season, losing nine and drawing three in that spell. They finished the 2013-14 campaign in truly dreadful form, and appear to have carried that on at the start of this term.
There is, perhaps, a glimmer of hope on the horizon, however. That opening victory in the league remains elusive, but they do come into this match on the back of a win having beaten Crystal Palace in the League Cup on Wednesday. They needed extra time to do it, with Dummett popping up with the winner to seal a 3-2 victory, but the fact that they have a win against Premier League opposition under their belt should give them plenty of confidence going into tonight's match.
The fact that the victory came away from home is also significant, as Newcastle have been poor on their travels of late. They are without a victory in their last seven Premier League matches on the road and, even more worryingly, have scored a measly one goal in that time. Just as Stoke are yet to find the net at home this season, Newcastle have not opened their account away thus far.
One minor positives coming into this match is that Newcastle are no longer bottom of the table. They began the weekend propping up the rest of the Premier League, but Burnley's 4-0 drubbing at the hands of West Bromwich Albion yesterday saw the Clarets replace Newcastle as the league's basement club on goal difference. Defeat tonight could see them return to the bottom, but victory would see them climb out of the bottom three, to be replaced by Stoke.
If they are to avoid defeat, they will need to upset their own form book. They have conceded two or more goals in 10 of their last 13 league outings and have only managed one clean sheet in their last 10 league games against Stoke. They have also only ever managed one victory against the Potters in a Premier League match at the Britannia, although that win did come on a Monday night as Demba Ba netted a hat-trick to inspire his side to a 3-1 victory in 2011.
TEAM NEWS: Right, the teams are in for both sides, and the big news for Newcastle is that it is Riviere to leads the line. Cisse is left on the bench despite his brace against Hull last weekend, but Krul and Gouffran do return to the side having suffered from illness during the week. Hughes, meanwhile, welcomes Muniesa into the match following his League Cup double, but there is no place for Arnautovic, Bojan or Assaidi. Full team news for both sides coming right up...
STOKE STARTING XI: Begovic; Bardsley, Shawcross, Wilson, Muniesa; Whelan, Nzonzi; Diouf, Adam, Moses; Crouch
STOKE SUBS: Sorensen, Pieters, Huth, Ireland, Arnautovic, Assaidi, Bojan
NEWCASTLE STARTING XI: Krul; Janmaat, Coloccini, Williamson, Dummett; Tiote, Colback; Sissoko, Cabella, Gouffran; Riviere
NEWCASTLE SUBS: Elliot, S.Taylor, Anita, Obertan, Ameobi, Armstrong, Cisse
So, what can we make of those two teams, then? Well, starting with Stoke, it is no surprise to see Peter Crouch
once again leading the line following his performance against QPR last time out. The striker had gone 10 matches with scoring or assisting a goal in the Premier League before last weekend, but he made up for that with both a goal and an assist to help his side to a 2-2 draw. He will be looking to continue that good form against a shaky Newcastle backline tonight.
In support, he will have Diouf and Moses, the latter of whom is beginning to find a new lease of life at the Britannia. His development has stalled a little since his move to Chelsea, but a regular run of first-team football for a side like Stoke could be exactly what he needs to revive his career. Arnautovic was a slight injury doubt going into this one and, as a result, only makes the bench, while the likes of Assaidi and Bojan also give Stoke options should they need to find a spark as time wears on.
Muniesa is rewarded for his midweek brace with a start at left-back, replacing Pieters in the side tonight. It was Pieters who got the only goal of the game the last time these two met, so he will be especially disappointed to miss out tonight, but Hughes could not really leave Muniesa on the bench following his performance against Sunderland.
As for Newcastle, all eyes will be on their defence following an unconvincing start to the season. Coloccini can be one of the toughest defenders in the league when he is on form, and the Magpies could really do with one of his inspirational, battling performances this evening. Janmaat is included having overcome a muscle strain, while the inclusion of Krul is also an important one for Newcastle after he missed the midweek game through illness. Just as Stoke have Muniesa, Newcastle have a defender who scored in midweek, with Dummett netting the extra-time winner against Crystal Palace.
Protecting the defence will be Tiote and Colback, two players who can be very important for their side on their day. Colback's form at the start of the campaign was very promising - good enough even to earn a call-up to the England squad - but he was unable to feature for the national team due to injury. He will be hoping to rediscover that sort of form as quickly as possible in a bid to help drag Newcastle out of the bottom three.
The three just behind the striker possess plenty of creativity and flair and should give Stoke a tricky time of things this evening. Sissoko created far more chances than any other Newcastle player last season, while Cabella has shown flashes of his quality since his arrival at the club. Gouffran is another who missed the midweek game due to illness, so Pardew will be pleased to have him back available once again tonight.
The most interesting selection was always going to be who started up front for Newcastle, and Pardew has opted for Riviere. The striker opened his account for the club in midweek with a brace that took the game to extra time before Dummett's late winner, and he should be full of confidence going into this match. It must have been a hard decision to leave Cisse out, however, after the Senegalese striker scored two late goals to rescue a point against Hull last weekend. He has also netted four goals in his last five appearances against Stoke, so will have fancied his chances against the Potters this evening. He will once again have to make his mark off the bench, however.
PREDICTION: We're 10 minutes from kickoff at the Britannia Stadium, which can mean only one thing - it's time for a prediction! This one is a tough one to call, with both sides short of form and Stoke struggling at home this season. Newcastle are poor on their travels too, but do come into this one after an away victory. It really wouldn't be a huge surprise to see this one go either way, but I'm going to sit on the fence and go for a draw. 1-1!
That's what I think will happen, then, but how about the rest of the Sports Mole Sofa
? You can have a watch of our short preview of this game below:
The corresponding fixture last season came in April and saw Stoke edge to a 1-0 victory courtesy of a Pieters strike. However, Newcastle will have fonder memories of when these two met at St James's Park as they ran out 5-1 winners. They have been in pretty poor form since that result, however, winning just five matches in the league all year.
Stoke boast the better record between these two in recent times, winning three of the last four meetings at the Britannia Stadium. Indeed, Newcastle have won just three of their last 17 visits to Stoke - a record the Potters will be confident of extending despite their own questionable home form so far this season.
I've predicted this match will finish 1-1, which incidentally is the same scoreline as Stoke's last three matches on a Monday night. Newcastle, meanwhile, have lost their last four Premier League matches that have taken place on a Monday, conceding 12 goals in the process.
KICKOFF: Newcastle get us underway in pouring rain at the Britannia Stadium. Can they finally get a first win of the season, or will Stoke end their poor home form?
It will be interesting to see whether the conditions play a part here tonight. It really is raining heavily in Stoke, so the ball will zip off the turf and could prove difficult for the keepers.
N'Zonzi looks to take advantage of the greasy surface with a shot from range in an attempt to test the keeper early on. However, he gets his strike all wrong, dragging it well wide of the far post.
It has been a quiet start to this match, with both sides struggling to hold onto possession for any real length of time so far. Both seem to be easing their way into the match in these tentative opening exchanges.
There is an early worry for Stoke here as Adam goes down to receive treatment. He has been limping for the last few minutes following a clash with Cabella, and he is still feeling the effects of that. He should be able to continue, though.
Newcastle win a free kick in a really good crossing position as Wilson catches Riviere, who did well to chase what was a fairly aimless ball upfield. First real chance for them to threaten here...
Big waste for Colback as his low delivery is easily cleared by the first man. That was a real chance to put Stoke's defence under pressure - something they haven't managed at all so far - but the cross was dreadful.
Unsurprisingly, Crouch has been dominant in the air in these opening exchanges. He has latched on to a number of long balls forward and flicked them on towards Diouf, who is always looking to get beyond the big striker. Nothing has come of it so far, but it is clearly part of Hughes's gameplan.
SHOT! Better from Newcastle as Sissoko plucks the ball out of the air with a lovely touch before moving past Adam. He gives it to Cabella, who cuts inside before slipping a pass to Riviere, who hammers a shot well wide of the near post.
GOAL! Stoke 1-0 Newcastle (Peter Crouch)
It's been an uneventful opening 15 minutes, but suddenly Stoke have the lead courtesy of a towering Crouch header. It was Moses who provided the cross, just as he did against QPR last weekend, and Crouch was the only man who was ever going to win that header. He dominated Coloccini in the air before steering his header into the far corner.
SHOT! Newcastle look for an immediate response, and this would have been some way to reply. A corner is played straight to Coloccini on the edge of the box and the defender chests it down nicely before volleying an effort over the top.
The Newcastle fans rise as one for a minute of applause in tribute to Jonas Gutierrez, who is battling against cancer. Good to see that the fans have not forgotten, nice touch.
PENALTY SHOUT! The hosts want a penalty following a lightning quick break forward. Diouf slid the ball inside for Moses, who was clattered into by Gouffran. The Newcastle man got none of the ball and all of the player, so he is very fortunate to get away with that one. It should have been a penalty.
CLOSE! Newcastle get straight up to the other end of the field and almost increase the level of anger inside the Britannia by equalising. It was Sissoko who cut inside before firing a powerful effort narrowly past the angle.
The hosts are forced into an early change here as Diouf limps off to be replaced by Marko Arnautovic
. That is a blow for the Potters, but Arnautovic has been impressive so far this season so they won't lose too much in the final third.
Pardew is cutting a rather forlorn figure on the touchline right now. The pressure continues to build on him, and if this one stays the same then it could be his final match in charge of the club. He needs his players to come up with something in the remaining 65 minutes.
A period of sustained pressure for Newcastle comes to an end with a poor pass from Sissoko, allowing Stoke to break quickly once again. Moses leads the charge before giving it to Crouch on the right, but the goalscorer slices his shot well wide of the near post.
Newcastle are seeing plenty of the ball right now, with Stoke happy to soak up the pressure and hit the visitors on the break. The Magpies have had 57% possession so far, but there is a distinct lack of quality in the final third at the moment.
There is an increasingly bitter feeling towards the referee inside the Britannia Stadium. He has made a few decisions that have angered the home crowd already tonight, the biggest of which was turning down the penalty on Moses.
Stoke are doing a decent job of containing Newcastle right now, although it must be said that the visitors aren't exactly coming up with anything inspiring to really test the defence. It's all a little flat right now.
CHANCE! Again Newcastle knock it about nicely and keep Stoke under pressure, only to then lose possession and be caught on the break. It is once again Moses who carries the ball out before slipping it to Muniesa, who cross is flicked on by Williamson at the front post. That takes it to Crouch, whose header at the back stick is cleared away from inside his own six-yard box by Coloccini.
Half a chance for Newcastle as the ball is played into the area from the left flank for Gouffran, who connects with a stooping header. However, he can't get enough on his effort to trouble the keeper as it is blocked by the defence, who launch another counter.
Newcastle come forward once again, with Dummett making his usual run down the left flank. He is picked out by a teammate before cutting inside and seeing his goalbound shot deflected behind for a corner. They just can't find a way behind this Stoke defence at the moment.
YELLOW CARD! The first card of the evening goes the way of Colback for a cynical foul on Moses as the winger was looking to break yet again. Craig Pawson allowed play to continue before coming back to book the midfielder afterwards.
Newcastle just can't deal with Stoke's counter-attacking in this match. Once again Moses carries it forward from midfield before sliding the pass to Crouch, who steps over it in an attempt to lose the attentions of a defender. However, he can't make the most of a good position and eventually the chance fizzles out.
SAVE! Superb stop from Begovic to deny Newcastle in their best moment of the match so far. A cross was cleared as far as Janmaat, who teed himself up before drilling a good low strike towards the bottom corner. It bounces just before Begovic, but the keeper gets a very good hand to it to push it wide.
CHANCE! Really good play from Moses as he burrows through down the left channel before pulling the ball back for Crouch, who completely misses it at the front post. It runs through to Arnautovic, but his powerful effort is blocked just in front of Krul.
There will be four minutes of added time at the end of this first half.
HALF TIME: Stoke City 1-0 Newcastle United
The referee brings an end to the first half at the Britannia Stadium, and it is Stoke who go into the break with a slender advantage. They have come into this game with a clear game plan, and it is working perfectly so far. Newcastle have seen most of the ball and are controlling things in that respect, but they haven't been able to find a way through the Potters' stubborn defence so far.
It was Peter Crouch who got the goal for the hosts, nodding into the far corner in the 15th minute. It was a very good finish from the striker, who towered over Coloccini to reach the ball and steer his effort past a helpless Tim Krul. Victor Moses created the chance with his cross, but there was still a lot for Crouch to do, and he made no mistake with his effort.
Aside from that, there hasn't been too much goalmouth action. Newcastle's best moment of the match came just before the break as the ball fell to Janmaat around 25 yards from goal. The right-back drilled a good, low effort towards the bottom corner, but Begovic got down really well to make a fine save. The conditions would have made it difficult for the keeper, while it also bounced right in front of him, so it was a really good stop.
Stoke, meanwhile, are unfortunate not to have been awarded a penalty in that first half following a quick break forward. Diouf, who has since gone off injured, slid his pass inside for Moses, who was bundled into inside the box by Gouffran. The midfielder didn't get a foot on the ball and there was certain contact on the player, but the referee decided against pointing at the spot.
Crouch has also come close to doubling his personal tally with a header at the back post, while Arnautovic saw a powerful effort of his own cleared just in front of the keeper. On the whole, Stoke have been happy enough to let Newcastle have the ball, so long as the Magpies don't get in behind their defence. Aside from the Janmaat effort and another strike from Sissoko, Newcastle have not really threatened the Stoke goal as the Potters' defence continues to contain their opponents fairly comfortably.
's side have actually knocked the ball about quite nicely at times this evening, but they simply haven;t been able to cope with Stoke on the break. The Potters bide their time but, when they eventually win the ball back, they are quick to break, with Moses in particular causing Newcastle countless problems. The winger was the best player in that first half, and Hughes will be wanting more of the same from his side in the second half.
NEWCASTLE SUB: Something needed to be done for Newcastle, and Pardew has turned to the man who saved them against Hull last weekend. Papiss Cisse is introduced at the break in place of Riviere.
KICKOFF: Stoke get us back underway at the Britannia as they look to hold on to their lead and extend Newcastle's winless run at the start of the season.
OFF THE POST! Stoke are inches away from making a perfect start to the second half! Muniesa's cross looks destined for Crouch, only for Williamson so make a vital interception. However, he can only divert it into the path of Arnautovic, who fires a powerful low effort against the foot of the post.
Newcastle have been let off a couple of times in this match now. They should have had a penalty given against them in the first half, while that Arnautovic strike was so close to nestling in the bottom corner as well. Can they make the most of those and get an equaliser?
Bardsley gives away a careless free kick in midfield before getting into a war of words with Tiote, with neither player wanting to back down. The referee steps in to calm things down, however, and he is right not to go to his book. Much ado about nothing.
This has been a pretty dismal display from Newcastle, it must be said. Pardew will take some pleasure from the way his side have moved the ball at times, but on other occasions they have been very careless in possession and they have posed very little threat in the final third throughout.
Adam looks to take the ball past Coloccini, who does well to get his body in between the Stoke man and the ball. Adam climbs all over the back of the defender in his attempts to get past, and the referee duly blows for the free kick. I've seen them given yellow cards, but the referee deems a free kick to be sufficient punishment on this occasion.
Again Craig Pawson is lenient as Williamson hacks down his man in a dangerous area. He got nowhere near the ball there and it really should have been a booking. Stoke do have a free kick in a decent position, though...
SAVE! Adam opts to go for goal straight from the free kick, with most people expecting a cross. He strikes it well enough, but Krul sees it all the way and is able to make a fairly comfortable save. There is a hint of a fumble, but the keeper collects it at the second time of asking.
YELLOW CARD! Cisse is the next man in the book for a foul on Adam. The striker was making a genuine attempt for the ball, but he arrived a touch late and caught the former Liverpool midfielder.
STOKE SUB: Being fouled is Adam's last action of the match as he makes way for Stephen Ireland, who continues his recovery from injury with half an hour here.
CHANCE! Oh my word, what a huge chance for Stoke to double their lead! It is absolutely calamitous from Newcastle as they gift an opportunity to Moses, but Krul stays big to deny the winger. Moses had tried to link up with Crouch, but the Newcastle defence seemed to have it covered as they won possession back just inside their own box. However, Janmaat's clearance strikes Williamson, taking the ball into the path of Moses, who can;t squeeze it home from close range.
YELLOW CARD! Bardsley becomes the latest name in the referee's notebook for a tangle with Gouffran just inside the Stoke half.
SHOT! Another good opening for the hosts as Crouch flicks the ball inside for Arnautovic, who carries the ball forward. Williamson gets half a challenge in, but can only take the ball into the path of Ireland, who effort from the edge of the box is high and wide.
That earlier yellow card, which was waved in some general direction by the ref, was in fact for Whelan rather than Bardsley.
NEWCASTLE SUB: Another change for the visitors as Gouffran makes way to be replaced by Gabriel Obertan. Can the winger come up with something to change this game in the final 20 minutes or so?
Stoke are on top right now, and have been for the vast majority of this second half. While Newcastle were seeing plenty of the ball in the first half, they are struggling to string a decent passing move together right now and have not troubled the Stoke defence in a while.
PENALTY SHOUT! Another penalty shout for the hosts as Crouch takes a deflected cross down on his chest. Williamson gives his arm a slight tug, and Crouch goes to ground in an effort to draw attention to that fact. The ref waves it away, and then Krul comes out of his goal to confront the Stoke striker. There was definite contact, but you're never going to get a penalty for that and the ref got this one right.
Decent spell of possession for Newcastle, but once again they don't go anywhere with it. There is barely any movement up front whatsoever, and that is making it so simple for Stoke to defend. It is hard to see where an equaliser might come from right now.
NEWCASTLE SUB: Pardew looks to change that with his third and final sub of the night as Sammy Ameobi comes on for the disappointing Cabella.
A little better from Newcastle as they actually spend a little time in the Stoke final third, but again Begovic has nothing to do as an aimless cross comes to nothing. This has been a miserable evening so far for Newcastle.
Really poor from Arnautovic. Newcastle have a corner which comes to nothing, and Sissoko gives the ball away with very little cover back there. Moses breaks forward and has Arnautovic ahead of him. He has the entire Newcastle half to run into, but he goes too early and strays offside. That would have been a one on one had he stayed on.
Newcastle win a free kick around 30 yards from goal, and Tiote knocks it square for Sissoko to strike. However, by the time he actually gets to the ball there is a Stoke man in his face to block the effort, wasting a really good free kick opportunity. They would have been better served floating that into the box.
STOKE SUB: The hosts make their third and final change of the evening as Oussama Assaidi comes on for the impressive Moses.
OFF THE BAR! Oh my word, Newcastle have a glorious chance to level things up! Obertan drills a cross into the box that Shawcross makes a mess of clearing, It falls to Colback but, from six yards out, he lifts his shot against the crossbar. He simply had to score there, it was a sitter! Incredible.
Colback can't quite believe that he has missed that one, and he's not the only one. What must Alan Pardew be thinking right now? It could be the case that that miss is enough to cost him his job. Those fine margins are so important in football.
Obertan has made a difference since coming on. He once again races down the right flank and puts a decent ball in towards the front post, but none of his teammates have made the gamble and attacked it, allowing Begovic to collect.
Good defending from Coloccini as he stands up to Arnautovic, showing him on the outside before blocking his attempted shot. There is more space opening up now, particularly for Stoke as Newcastle throw everyone forward in search of an equaliser.
The fourth official indicates a minimum of four minutes added time at the end of this match as Obertan again races down the right before seeing a low cross cleared by Begovic.
Newcastle are really running out of time now. They have only created one clear chance all game, and Colback really should have finished from close range. They have been dreadful in the final third and haven't deserved anything out of this game.
FULL TIME: Stoke City 1-0 Newcastle United
The referee brings an end to proceedings at the Britannia Stadium, and Newcastle's winless start to the season extends to six matches courtesy of a 1-0 loss to Stoke. They struggled to create anything throughout as Stoke held firm in defence, and this is a result that leaves Pardew's position at the club in limbo. Will Mike Ashley pull the trigger or give his manager another chance? Stoke, meanwhile, have their first home goal, points and win of the season.
It was Peter Crouch who got the only goal of the game, nodding in after 15 minutes following some good work by Victor Moses. It was an impressive header from the striker, who dominated Coloccini in the air before guiding his effort into the corner. Both sides also hit the woodwork, but it was Stoke who held out for all three points.
Right, that is all we have time for this evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
on a miserable night for Newcastle as they are left still searching for their first win of the season, losing 1-0 to Stoke. I will leave you with our match report
, and be sure to stick around for reaction, analysis and player ratings, which will all be on site shortly. From me, though, it is goodbye for now!