SETTING THE SCENE:
TONY PULIS will be hoping his side can reignite their campaign in the North East this weekend . . . having endured a disappointing start to the New Year.
His side have recorded just four points from eight games in 2013; a run of form that includes six league defeats.
Despite that however, the Potters remain in a comfortable mid-table position, and know that a victory against the resurgent Magpies would culminate in a spot back in the top-half of the Premier League table.
Alan Pardew's side start as favourites for the clash, given that Stoke have won just one away fixture this year, although the Toon boss will need no reminding of the quality of the visitors having succumbed to a 2-1 defeat in the reverse fixture back in November.
The Magpies manager strengthened his side during the January transfer window despite losing the services of influential hit-man Demba Ba, to Champions League holders Chelsea.
He invested that money wisely by exploiting the French market for the likes of Yoann Gouffran, Mathieu Debuchy, Moussa Sissoko and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa; all of whom have played a part in a much improves second half of the campaign.
The new arrivals have helped transform the fortunes of the side since their arrivals, and now have a potential top-ten finish firmly within their sights.
They come into the game on the back of a creditable Europa League goalless draw against Anzi Makhachkala in Russia on Thursday evening, where no fewer than seven changes were made to the Newcastle side.
NEWCASTLE UNITED FACT-FILE:
Full name: Newcastle United Football Club
Stadium: St James' Park
Owner: Mike Ashley
Managing Director: Derek Llambias
Manager: Alan Pardew
2011/12: Premier League (5th), FA Cup (Fourth Round), League Cup (Fourth Round).
Record transfer fee paid: £15m for Alan Shearer to Blackburn Rovers, July 1996.
Record transfer fee received: £13.4m for Jonathan Woodgate to Real Madrid, August 2004.
INTRODUCING THE GAFFER:
IT'S ENORMOUSLY satisfying to prove your doubters wrong . . . something Alan Pardew certainly did in being hailed as the most successful manager in the top-flight of English football last season after guiding Newcastle back into Europe.
Pardew became the first English manager to win both the Premier League Manager of Season and LMA Manager of the Year awards at the same time to crown what had been an outstanding campaign, which had exceeded all expectations.
It is now just over two years since the 51-year-old was appointed as successor to Chris Hughton at St James' Park and his first challenge was to win over the Geordie masses due to the fact that he was not the most popular choice on Tyneside.
Despite the fact that Andy Carroll became the first of several big names to leave the club, Pardew set about rebuilding the squad with some shrewd acquisitions and that formed the basis of a side, which was pushing for Champions League qualification until the final few weeks of last season and eventually had to settle for a Europa League spot.
Pardew's highest achievements in the game include reaching the FA Cup Final twice, as a player for Crystal Palace in 1990 and as manager of West Ham in 2006 when they lost out to Liverpool on penalties.
After a playing career as a combative midfielder which spanned more than 500 League games, he was handed his first opportunity in management at Reading after impressing in two spells when he operated as caretaker boss of the Royals.
Having guided them to promotion glory in his second season in charge, he then moved on to West Ham where he spent three years in charge while he also managed Charlton Athletic and Southampton before his move to the North East.
TONY PULIS has confirmed that Matthew Etherington will undergo a late fitness test ahead of this weekend's Barclays Premier League encounter against Newcastle United.
The former England Under-21 international was absent from the side in their last outing against West Ham United, having picked up a back injury during the 1-0 defeat at Fulham a week earlier.
He has, however, trained with the rest of the squad in the build-up to the clash at St James. Park, although Pulis stopped short of confirming whether he would thrust him straight back into the starting eleven.
Meanwhile, Robert Huth is a certain absentee as he serves the second of a three-match suspension for violent conduct, although striker Michael Owen comes back into the equation following a minor injury.
The hosts are expected to welcome several players back into the side for the game, after Alan Pardew made seven changes to his side for the 0-0 Europa League draw AGAINST Anzi Makhachkala in Russia on Thursday night.
Striker Papiss Cisse should shrug off a virus in time to feature, although Fabiricio Coloccini, Tim Krul and Ryan Taylor are all certain to miss out through injury.
Geoff Cameron: "We were flying around Christmas time, and playing really, really well, but we've hit a sticky patch, and we have played some tough teams in this run too.
"It's kind of brought us into this declining run of form, but that said, I believe that we have the guys here to turn things around for us.
"There have been games where we haven't got what we maybe deserved, but that's football, and we won't look for excuses."
Peter Crouch: "It will be a difficult game, but we want to bounce back as soon as possible, obviously.
"We've had some good games this season, but we have had some indifferent games too, and we need to bounce back from the disappointment of the weekend when we go to Newcastle.
"They have lost one or two good players, but at the same time they have replaced them with great quality.
"The atmosphere will be good up there for certain, just as it always, but there is no reason why we can't go up there and win the game.
"The lads are angry and desperate to bounce back from the defeat against West Ham at the weekend."
THIS WEEKEND'S FIXTURES:
Norwich v Southampton
QPR v Sunderland
Reading v Aston Villa
West Brom v Swansea
Newcastle v Stoke
Liverpool v Tottenham
League: 23 Stoke City wins; 33 Newcastle United wins; 17 draws
FA Cup: 0 Stoke City wins; 5 Newcastle United wins; 2 draws
League Cup: 0 Stoke City wins; 2 Newcastle United wins; 0 draws
Other: 1 Stoke City win; 1 Newcastle United win; 0 draws
TOTAL: 24 Stoke City wins; 41 Newcastle United wins; 19 draws
LAST FIVE ENCOUNTERS:
Stoke City 2-1 Newcastle United (Premier League) - 27/11/2012
Newcastle United 3-0 Stoke City (Premier League) - 21/04/2012
Stoke City 1-3 Newcastle United (Premier League) - 31/10/2011
Stoke City 4-0 Newcastle United (Premier League) - 19/03/2011
Newcastle United 1-2 Stoke City (Premier League) - 26/09/2010
Stoke City win 19/5
Newcastle United win 5/6
The odds are correct at the time of writing, and are from bet365.com. These may differ dependant upon the latest betting trends.
ANDRE MARRINER will take charge of his 28th game of the season at St James' Park on Sunday.
The West Midlands based official has taken charge of five games involving either the Potters or Magpies this campaign, with neither of the sides coming out victorious in any of those clashes.
Of Andre's two games officiating Stoke, the side have lost at home to Chelsea, and away to Norwich, whilst the Magpies have slipped to two home defeats and a single away draw at Reading.
He has booked 79 players this term, but boasts an incredible record of not yet having had to send off a player.