The FourFourTwo Preview: Hull vs Newcastle
Tigers or Magpies? Bruce or Pardew? Allam or Ashley? Cash Converters or Wonga?
Newcastle travel to Humberside looking for their 100th away win since England's top division was rebranded as the Premier League, having won 99 and lost 173 of their 378 away games played since 1992/93. Newcastle have spent 20 seasons in the Premier League since, but for Hull this is just season No.3 in the league Roy Keane recently pilloried as not the best league in the world but 'the best brand'.
- Hull 2-1 Brighton (FAC)
- Cardiff 0-4 Hull (Prem)
- Brighton 1-1 Hull (FAC)
- Hull 0-1 So'ton (Prem)
- S'land 0-2 Hull (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-0 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-4 Spurs (Prem)
- Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-3 S'land (Prem)
- Norwich 0-0 Newcastle (Prem)
The promoted Tigers have so far done a pretty good job of ensuring they'll be sticking around for a fourth campaign next year with an encouraging season that's largely gone under the radar. Steve Bruce has hawked together a harem of hustlers and hard-workers at Hull, the January signings of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long adding yet more committed chasers and hard-running to an already purposeful and enthusiastic squad. As a result, opposing teams know they're in for a tough, close game against them - outside the top four only Southampton have beaten Bruce's men by more than one goal.
Bruce's tactical versatility has been oft overlooked this season, but is worthy of merit. Switching fluidly between 3-5-2 and 4-2-3-1 formations when necessary, the Geordie Guardiola has married a certain intelligence and tactical nous with a fierce desire to win.
An example of this came in last weekend's 4-0 win at Cardiff when, having just gone 2-0 up, Bruce was seen going mental at his players on the touchline, furiously berating them for not offering Long support as a move broke down. In that game Bruce out-manoeuvred his managerial counterpart with a 3-5-2 that completely stifled Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team.
Nonetheless, Newcastle will be buoyed by the fact Hull have failed to win a league game at home since December. Alan Pardew's side put to an end a run of three straight defeats with late, late victory over Aston Villa, and having won six away games already - as many as Chelsea and Manchester City and more than Liverpool - Pardew will be hoping his team can make it back-to-back wins as they chase his stated goal of finishing above Manchester United.
Liam Rosenior, Tom Huddlestone and Alex Bruce are all suffering knocks that they'll hope to recover from in time to feature. Paul McShane (ankle) and Robbie Brady (groin) miss out.
For Newcastle, Hatem Ben Arfa (knock), Gabriel Obertan and Davide Santon (both knee) all have injury problems, while captain Fabricio Coloccini will miss the game following a family bereavement.
Key battle: Curtis Davies vs Loic Remy
Newcastle's net-loving loanee Remy returned to first-team action in style last weekend, firing a stoppage-time winner to hand his side all three points in a 1-0 war of attrition with Villa. Remy had missed the previous three games through suspension after being sent off at Norwich and, as if to underline his importance to the team, Newcastle lost all three. The flamboyant Frenchman has 12 goals in 22 league appearances this season, and Newcastle have won seven of the nine games Remy has scored in - one of those two non-triumphs, coincidentally, came against Hull in a 3-2 defeat at St James' Park last September.
The Tigers know exactly what to expect and will need to be defensively sound to keep Remy - who has an excellent instinct for which penalty area positions to take up - off the scoresheet. Davies has been arguably Hull's best player this season, rediscovering the form that saw him named in Fabio Capello's first England squad. The defender is in the Premier League top 10 for aerial duels won per game and top five for interceptions per game, tied with Laurent Koscielny, and has brought stability and strength to the Tigers' back-line. He's also Hull's top man for clearances and blocks. Just don't ask him what the club's full name is…
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- N'castle 2-3 Hull (Prem, Sep 13)
- Hull 1-1 N'castle (Prem, Mar 09)
- N'castle 0-1 Hull (FAC, Jan 09)
- Hull 0-0 N'castle (FAC, Jan 09)
- N'castle 1-2 Hull (Prem, Sep 08)
There are only five English gaffers coaching in English football's top flight at present, meaning Premier League management is currently only 25% Made in England. Messrs Bruce and Pardew are carrying the torch for English coaches, men from opposite ends of the map pitting their wits weekly against the game's finest Chilean, Portuguese and French thinkers.
In the black and orange corner stands Bruce; flat of nose and puce of complexion - the burly guy in the pub grimly knocking back ale in a flat cap who, out of nowhere, starts quoting Inverting the Pyramid and could school you on tactical deficiencies of Hungarian teams from the 1950s.
In the black and white corner is Pardew - suave, confident, silver-haired and snake-tongued. With high values and a rigorous moral code even he struggles to adhere to, Pardew is a long way from home. A Cockney in exile on a journey of self-discovery in the mad lands of Tyneside, he often wears the bewildered demeanour of a man attempting to lasso a whirlwind.
Three positions and 10 points separate the two Englishmen, but Pardew has the upper hand in head-to-head league meetings with three wins and a draw from their five encounters, including a 1-0 win in the Tyne-Wear derby at Bruce's Sunderland in 2011.
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- 7 of Hull’s 13 home games this season have seen no more than 1 goal.
- Hull have won 0 of their last 5 home matches against middle-third teams, with 3 draws and 2 defeats.
- Newcastle have won both their trips to promoted teams this season.
- Both teams have scored in just 1 of Newcastle’s last 8 away matches.
Best Bet: Newcastle away win @ 3.15
More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
With Jelavic, Long and Remy around there could be goals in this one, but Newcastle are just about solid enough away from home to keep the Tigers at bay. 2-2.