Good afternoon everyone and welcome to Sports Mole
's coverage as Stoke City
take on Newcastle United
at the Britannia Stadium. This afternoon teams across the country will honour the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 people lost their lives. As a result, today's Premier League fixtures and a number of other matches across the country will begin at 3.07pm.
The Premier League's final matches are shaping up to help decide who gets relegated and who wins the title, however today's fixture offers little importance to either side in terms of silverware or competition qualification. However, both sides still have a lot to prove this season, especially Newcastle who have only notched 13 points from 15 games since thrashing Stoke 5-1 on Boxing Day.
and his men will be looking to avenge that fateful day in 2013, following a result that left both the manager and his players feeling extremely hard done by. The Britannia provides the hosts with the perfect opportunity to get one back over the Magpies, though, with the Potteries only losing two games at home this campaign.
will be looking to prove his doubters wrong with a strong finish to the season. Despite a strong start, recent results have left his side languishing in the form table, with today's visitors having lost 10 of their 15 games since Boxing Day. The past few weeks have proved particularly troublesome for Newcastle with heavy defeats coming at the hands of Manchester United, Southampton and Everton.
Stoke have been in great form lately, though their recent five-game unbeaten run was ended by Chelsea last weekend. The three goals they conceded against the Blues equals as many as this afternoon's hosts had done altogether in their previous five league matches.
Going into this game, Stoke have also lost only two of their last 10 league matches. They'll be buoyed given their stance as hosts today as they've picked up 30 of their 40 points at the Britannia this season.
Some team news for you now...
Stoke City starting XI: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; Ireland, Nzonzi, Whelan, Arnautovic; Odemwingie; Crouch
Newcastle United starting XI: Krul; S Taylor, Williamson, Coloccini; Anita, Gosling, Tiote, Gouffran, Dummett; Sh Ameobi, Cisse
Stoke City substitutes: Sorensen; Muniesa, Palacios, Adam, Walters, Guidetti, Wilkinson
Newcastle United substitutes: Elliot; Haidara, Yanga-Mbiwa, Bigirimana, Ben Arfa, de Jong, Armstrong
So Stoke have decided to stick with their trusted 4-5-1 formation that has served them well this far into the season. Peter Crouch
leads the attacking line as a sole striker, with wide support coming from Marko Arnautovic
and Peter Odemwingie
. Glenn Whelan
, Steven Nzonzi
and Stephen Ireland
will sit in the middle of the park. Charlie Adam
misses out on a start given that he broke his nose during training this week.
Newcastle have wrung the changes following their heavy defeat to Manchester United last weekend. Pardew has decided to bring in four players in the shape of Tim Krul
, centre-back Steven Taylor, left-back Paul Dummett and striker Shola Ameobi
. The Newcastle boss will be hoping that he can change a tide which has seen the Magpies concede 11 goals in three games, without his side scoring a single goal.
Newcastle are in desperate need of goals and that plight might not be helped this afternoon given the absence of injured striker Loic Remy. In the 10 games the French striker has missed the Geordies have lost eight and scored only one goal.
Today's visitors also face a bit of a problem in the defensive department. Only the bottom four have conceded more goals than Newcastle, who have let in 48 goals this season.
Pardew's struggle for a good goal-return has become even more prominent this year. Newcastle have scored just two goals at home in the league in 2014.
Stoke have the most impressive return on recent results out of the two teams. Mark Hughes
and his men have got a return of four wins, one draw and one defeat out of their last six Premier League fixtures.
Newcastle, however, have lost four and drawn two, with their only victories coming against Crystal Palace and Hull City.
Newcastle fans may be a little concerned by their side's ability to scrap for a point when behind of late. The Magpies have drawn just one of their last 17 league matches and only four all season. The only side who have drawn fewer are relegation strugglers Fulham, who have drawn three games this campaign.
The statistics appear slightly onerous for Newcastle this afternoon, with the Magpies only managing one win at the Britannia Stadium in the history of the Premier League.
This one might appear a bit of a dead rubber compared to some of the other fixtures this weekend, but make no mistake - both sides will certainly be looking for three points in this encounter. Pardew desperately needs a good result to help put his recent travails behind him, while Stoke are looking to push on into the top half of the league. A further eight points from their last five games would give Stoke their highest-ever points tally.
The statistics are really against Newcastle in this fixture and their poor form going into the game will not help either. However, I have a slight niggling feeling that the Magpies might turn it around this afternoon. Stoke are without the influential Charlie Adam
and these changes for Newcastle could freshen things up a little. I'm saying 2-1 to the visitors.
The teams are out on the pitch now as we await kickoff. Cisse or Ameobi will need to deliver this afternoon, their fans deserve it I'd say... They've had to endure a few horrible games in the recent weeks.
The teams are gathered around the centre circle as we enter a minutes' silence in honour of the 25th anniversary of the tragic Hillsborough disaster.
KICKOFF: Here we go then, Stoke get us underway, kicking from left to right in their home kit...
A blustery afternoon greets the players at the Britannia, the wind is behind Stoke who decide to lump the ball forward at the first chance. It hurries down into the corner, leaving Dummett to see it out for a goal kick.
Stoke have begun this encounter brightly and are playing with confidence. The hosts win the ball in midfield, leaving Whelan to play an adventurous ball across the pitch into the path of Arnautovic, though he is crowded out by two Newcastle defenders.
The hosts are pressing the play high up the pitch and it seems to be paying off. Cameron does well down the right flank, but runs into the path of the Newcastle defence. He plays it cool and sends it back to Whelan who gets things moving across the centre of the pitch. I'm not so sure that would have happened under other Stoke bosses. However, Hughes has got his team playing some nice football this season.
Newcastle are yet to get going. Each time they win the ball they are thumping it forward to their strikers in hope that they're able to bring it down. They're going to need to do a little more than that to break this Stoke side down.
Nothing in the way of chances just yet, but Crouch is looking ever-more threatening as he drops deep to collect the ball and look for the overlapping wingers to get in behind the Newcastle defence.
POST! And after saying that... Crouch should score. Stoke play some intricate stuff down the left hand side, leaving Arnautovic to deliver a superb ball into the box. It evades all three Newcastle centre-backs as Crouch jumps highest to meet it. The goal is gaping but somehow he can only divert the header straight onto the post.
CLOSE! Newcastle should be in front. Straight after the Crouch chance the ball is sent forward to Anita on the right. The winger sends in a cross for Ameobi who wins the knock-down. The ball drops to Gosling who can only guide the ball over the bar with the Stoke defence scrambling.
Newcastle seem to have claimed some confidence back and are now holding the ball with a little more comfort. Stoke look a little bit shaken at the moment, especially with balls sent into the box.
When they do have the ball, however, Stoke look in commanding form. The hosts' middle three are moving the ball nicely across the pitch, but Newcastle are yet to be drawn out and are standing firm.
What a waste! Some quick play from Newcastle sees the ball fed into Ameobi, he turns and heads towards goal. He has options either side, but instead decides to fire off a poor effort on goal, which trickles wide to the left of the Stoke frame.
Arnautovic looks threatening going forward, but he does leave his full-back a little too open and this could be something Newcastle seek to exploit as the game opens up. For now, though, the winger is putting Newcastle on the back foot down the left flank with his pace and guile.
Case in point as he forces Anita into a horrible back-pass that baffles Tim Krul and goes out for a corner. The resulting ball calls on the keeper to punch, with the Dutchman willingly coming off his line to clear.
PENALTY? Dummett does brilliantly to keep possession on the left, he cuts inside with a neat turn and feeds Cisse who nips in front of Cameron. It looks as though Cameron gets something on the ball as Cisse goes tumbling, though replays suggest that the right-back got the man instead of the ball.
The visitors are starting to assert a bit of dominance here. Since that Crouch miss Stoke haven't done too much to trouble the Magpies.
CLOSE! Arnautovic is causing real problems when he does get the ball. He sees his diverted cross fall into the path of Nzonzi, whose strike is deflected up and over the Newcastle crossbar with Krul looking beaten.
CHANCE! What a miss! Arnautovic is the architect yet again with some great skill down the left, he pulls the ball back with a neat pass which is headed for the oncoming Odemwingie who is headed for the left side of the box. The striker pulls back his leg in preparation to fire, but kicks nothing but air as he lashes wildly at the ball and the chance goes begging.
Stoke are now coming back into this after that short period of Newcastle dominance. It looks as though their best chances will come down the left, or through the use of Crouch who looks menacing up top.
Newcastle's pressing pays off as Ireland is robbed in the middle of the park by Gosling. Ameobi leads the break away before finding Anita who sprints down the right flank. However, his cross is headed away by Shawcross who back-peddles adroitly to see off the danger.
This encounter is starting to develop nicely. Both sides have had decent chances, with Stoke just about edging the best of them. The hosts are yet to find the final touch, though.
Despite only seeing the ball on a few occasions, Anita has provided a few great crosses thus far. This time he is given the ball on the right after a neat exchange with Gosling, however his cross is only greeted by one Newcastle striker leaving Stoke to clear with ease.
GOAL! GOAL! Stoke City 1-0 Newcastle United (Erik Pieters)
Poor old Krul. This could prove to be one of the flukes of the season as dutch left-back Erik Pieters
gives Stoke the lead. The defender breaks down the left where he is fed the ball from the centre of the pitch. He shapes up to deliver a cross, but the ball balloons more towards goal than the middle of the box, leaving Krul with too much to do as the ball flies over his head and into the net. Lucky, but also rather amusing. Not for Newcastle, though.
Poor old Krul. This could prove to be one of the flukes of the season as dutch left-back Erik Pieters gives Stoke the lead. The defender breaks down the left where he is fed the ball from the centre of the pitch. He shapes up to deliver a cross, but the ball balloons more towards goal than the middle of the box, leaving Krul with too much to do as the ball flies over his head and into the net. Lucky, but also rather amusing. Not for Newcastle, though.
HALF TIME: Stoke City 1-0 Newcastle United
Stoke lead then, but there hasn't been too much between both of the sides. Perhaps the hosts have been a little more enterprising when going forward, though Pieters's goal was a total fluke.
Newcastle haven't had much to go by in the way of chances, but they've grown into this fixture comfortably and might feel a little hard done by to be going into half time a goal behind. The visitors might be asking a little more from their strikers in the second half, with Cisse and Ameobi not offering much when being asked to hold up the ball.
Dan Gosling has been excellent in midfield for Newcastle, his pressing has setup a number of counter attacks for the visitors, though he hasn't been given much support by his teammates when going forward.
However, the most menacing men on the pitch have been Arnautovic and Crouch, who have dominated the game for Stoke. Out wide, Arnautovic's pace and skill have put Newcastle on the back foot, while Crouch's presence when dropping deep has had Newcastle's defender's constantly looking over their shoulders for runs in behind.
The home side have held the lion's share of possession in the first half, with Stoke keeping 57 per cent of the ball. If they're able to do so again in the second half I don't seem them giving away their goal-lead, instead I think they'll go on to increase that now. So much for my earlier prediction...
Pardew won't be too disheartened, however, as his new-look 3-5-2 formation seemed to have been working well up until the goal. It's Newcastle's inability to convert pressure into opportunities that is causing the real problems for the visitors.
KICKOFF! Newcastle get us back underway, kicking from left to right in their yellow away strip.
A slow start to proceedings in the second period as Nzonzi takes a knock to the head. He's up and moving now leaving Krul to get things moving again.
Could this second period be built for someone like Hatem Ben Arfa? His speed and trickery could cause this Stoke defence a few more problems by asking more questions of their ability...
Arnautovic has settled back into his role with aplomb. He is fed the ball down the left and the first thing he thinks of doing is lifting in a cross into the box. He decides to go with the outside of his boot, but the curling effort falls comfortable into the arms of Krul.
CHANCE! A blistering piece of counter-attacking football sees Arnautovic drive down the left flank, he beats the full-back and delivers a peach of a cross into the box where Crouch is arriving. However, the forward can't do enough to keep his headed effort down and the ball flies over the crossbar.
Ameobi hasn't done anywhere near enough for his side this afternoon. Each and every time he receives the ball his touch is either too poor or he's tackled too easily leaving Newcastle without the ball just moments after they've managed to win it back.
Anita has had a good game thus far, though he's struggling to contain Arnautovic at the moment.
SAVE! Stoke bring the play towards the centre of the pitch this time as Nzonzi lays it off for the approaching Arnautovic. The winger takes it first time on his right and sends a curling effort towards the bottom corner, however Krul does well to get down and make a comfortable save.
MISS! Stoke should be out of sight by now and it's Crouch who is wasteful again. The hosts have enjoyed a lot of joy down the left, but this time it's Cameron who delivers the ball from the right. The cross evades the Newcastle centre-back, but Crouch can only head his effort straight at Krul as he slips towards the ground.
CLOSE! Cisse does great to deliver a cross from the right which causes all sorts of problems for Stoke. The ball eventually falls to Williamson who flicks the ball towards goal, but Shawcross gets in the way to prevent Newcastle from grabbing a potentially vital equaliser.
Stoke are doing their best to take the sting out of this passage of play now as Newcastle sense something could come their way.
SUBSTITUTE: Stephen Ireland
is replaced by Charlie Adam, who enters the fray with a face mask to protect a broken nose picked up during training earlier in the week.
Adam is showing his class already as he switches the play with a superb cross-field pass. However, Odemwingie shows a poor piece of control and the ball runs out for a goal kick to Newcastle.
The longer Stoke go without this second goal, the more adventurous Newcastle are bound to be. It could only take a set-piece or some individual brilliance to turn this game around for the visitors.
CHANCE! Again, Stoke are wasteful and should have put this game to bed. Begovic starts the move with a wonderful throw to Adam, who then finds Arnautovic who has switched across to the right. He beats his man with ease, but can't find Crouch with the pull-back as the ball trickles behind the rangy striker.
SUBSTITUTES: Newcastle make a double change now with Gosling being replaced by Hatem Ben Arfa and Cisse switching for Adam Armstrong.
MISS! When are they going to end this? Stoke miss another chance... Arnautovic races down the left, cutting it back for Adam who can only skew his effort across the face of goal and wide.
CLOSE! Anita is on hand to produce some wonderful defending to deny Stoke another goal. Cameron delivers a ball to the back post, where Crouch is waiting, however the winger slides in to see the ball away for a corner.
CLOSE! Arnautovic is having the game of his life, surely? He can't do a thing wrong at the moment. This time he receives the ball out wide and pings in an inviting ball for Crouch, who misses the ball by only an inch or so as he busts a gut to connect with a header.
What a purchase at £2m Arnautovic is proving to be. However, his performance could be irrelevant if Newcastle go on to steal a point. Stoke need to take one of these chances if they want to avoid a nail-bitting final few minutes.
CHANCE! Newcastle almost steal that point... Ameobi does well to drive towards Krul's near post. In doing so he draws across the Newcastle defenders, leaving Anita free at the back post. However, he can't climb high enough to direct the resulting ball on target. If he'd been a few inches taller it would be 1-1.
SUBSTITUTE: Odemwingie is replaced by Jonathan Walters as Hughes looks to run down the clock.
Newcastle have somehow managed to hang on to this game. Could there still be something left in it for Pardew's men as we go into the final few minutes?
Newcastle have gone a little flat, which is odd considering a draw is still up for grabs. Stoke are happy to knock the ball around in short triangles as they look to maintain possession.
We're going to have four minutes of additional time at the Britannia.
Things have turned rather scrappy now as Stoke look to see out the three points. Newcastle are too excitable when they do regain the ball and seem to be rushing proceedings far too much.
FULL TIME: STOKE CITY 1-0 NEWCASTLE UNITED
Well, there we go... Stoke are on course for their most impressive points standing in the Premier League. Newcastle, however, have lost four in a row without scoring a goal, which probably explains a 'Pardew Out' banner making its way around some sections of the travelling support at the end of the game. That's all from us for now, take care!