Manchester United host Newcastle United looking to put a desperate week behind them which has seen the Reds fall further off the pace in the Premier League.
Defeat on Wednesday night at home to Everton saw Arsenal move 12 points clear of United who are currently ninth in the league and while David Moyes lamented his sides bad luck in front of goal after the narrow 1-0 loss against Everton, there has been a distinct lack of quality in the final third of late.
A loss against Newcastle combined with an Arsenal win would see United fall 15 points off the top of the table, a figure that could prove insurmountable.
United have taken just two points from a possible nine since the international break and face a Newcastle side in good form, albeit one who lost on Wednesday too. Four straight victories including wins against Chelsea and Tottenham prior to a disappointing 3-0 defeat at Swansea had seen the Magpies scale the table after a troubled closed season off the pitch for the club.
Moyes was insistent in his Friday press conference that United were not yet out of the title race but you feel that any more slip-ups in the coming weeks would virtually kill off any faint hopes of retaining the title with a huge chunk of the season still to play for, something which wasn’t exactly envisaged in August.
United’s quest to get back on track is not exactly helped by the absence of key players Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie through injury. Wayne Rooney, who has been instrumental so far this season is suspended after a fifth yellow card in midweek while Shinji Kagawa is doubtful which leaves Moyes somewhat short in attack.
Newcastle are relatively unaffected by injuries and suspensions with Papiss Cisse their only absentee. The enigmatic Hatem Ben Arfa may return to the side after missing the Magpies trip to Swansea through illness. Yohan Cabaye, a reported target for United over the summer, is likely to start in midfield.
Last season featured two entertaining meetings between the sides with United winning twice. Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra were both on the score sheet in a convincing 3-0 win for United at St. James Park while the return fixture finished 4-3 in a game where Newcastle took the lead three times before Javier Hernandez snatched a 90th minute winner.
This fixture is usually full of goals and excitement but it is just that which has lacked in the last two league games. With Rooney and Van Persie out, it will be interesting to see if/where the spark comes from for United with their two talisman unavailable.
Newcastle currently sit one place and one point ahead of United in the table and look back to the form of 2011/12 where they finished a lofty 5th in the Premier League. The Geordies, spearheaded by in-form Loic Remy who has nine league goals to his name, will certainly be a tough proposition and will be encouraged to go for the jugular to pile more woe on David Moyes.
United haven’t lost back to back home games since 2002 but have been disappointing at Old Trafford of late with five wins in 11. Newcastle have conceded plenty but have quality in the shape of French trio Cabaye, Gouffran and Remy and are capable of causing any team problems on their day.
Hopefully, United can stop the rut and put in a performance that both the players and fans need.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Newcastle