18th May 2013
Having finally secured Premier League survival, Newcastle will attempt to end the season with a win and at the same time prevent Arsenal from qualifying for the Champions League. The Gunners need maximum points from St James’ Park to clinch top 4 finish and they will fancy their chances of winning this match.
The reality is Alan Pardew and his side have experienced all sorts of problems this season, but that cannot be considered an excuse for the fact they almost got relegated to the Championship. If it hadn’t been for the fortunate victory at QPR and if Wigan had beaten Swansea, the Magpies would be in real danger of going down, but everybody at the club is delighted things have unfolded the way they did. Following the embarrassing home defeats to Sunderland and Liverpool, Alan Pardew is hoping his men will manage to show some improvement now that the pressure is no longer present, but I wouldn’t be so convinced. The fact is Newcastle have largely struggled for form of late and it is more than evident that the dressing room atmosphere is at an all time low. With numerous selection problems making life even more difficult, I really cannot see the Magpies upsetting their more illustrious opponents. Given that Tim Krul is injured and Rob Elliot misses out through suspension, veteran keeper Steve Harper is set to start, while Moussa Sissoko, Shola Ameobi and Ryan Taylor continue to miss out. Davide Santon, Steven Taylor and Massadio Haidara could return.
Arsenal’s Champions League bid looked to be effectively over after the Gunners lost to Tottenham at White Hart Lane, but rather than putting the team down, the loss in North London derby had just the opposite effect on Arsene Wenger’s men. Arsenal impressed to win next five away fixtures in all competitions, and not even home draws against Everton and Manchester United could prevent them from climbing to the top 4. After winning the rearranged match against Wigan, the Gunners need three points from St James’ Park to secure the final Champions League berth and I really cannot seem them falling at the final hurdle. With key players on top of their game and the entire team looking really good at the moment, Arsenal can be trusted to continue the rich vein of form against indifferent Newcastle. The visitors will be without Mikel Arteta, who picked up a calf injury against Wigan, but Jack Wilshire should be recalled. As Oliver Giroud returns from a three-match ban, Lukas Podolski will probably be relegated to the bench despite scoring a brace in midweek.
While Newcastle are unlikely to roll over for Arsenal, the Magpies are just not in the right frame of mind to get something from this game and do Tottenham a huge favour. Having come this far, the Gunners are expected to get the job done and clinch another top 4 finish in Europe’s strongest league.
Verdict: Away win Arsenal (2)
Best Odds: 5/8