- West Ham (36 points), 10th in PL table
- Newcastle (31 points), 13th
- Newcastle 0-3 West Ham, in December
What has already been a banner, season-defining week for Newcastle United could get even better on Saturday when the Magpies visit West Ham United at the London Stadium (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com). Having already won twice in four days’ time — victories over Huddersfield Town and Burnley — Rafa Benitez‘s side now sits six points and five places clear of the Premier League’s relegation zone.
The challenge, now, is to translate their dominance at St. James’ Park to an away venue, something which has proven plenty difficult this season: just two of Newcastle’s eight wins have come away from the friendly confines of the northeast of England. Furthermore, they have taken just two points from their last five away games.
West Ham, on the other hand, have been a mixed bag at home: 6W-3D-5L. Even better of late, they’re 2W-2D-0L in their last four home games. Manuel Pellegrini‘s side sits 10th the PL table, but has won just two if its last nine league games.
West Ham lost 1-0 to Manchester City, but Pellegrini was clearly prioritizing Saturday’s showdown as the more winnable of this week’s fixtures, as he left Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Mark Noble and Robert Snodgrass on the bench for all 90 minutes. With an 11-point gap between themselves and the relegation zone, 10th-place West Ham comfortably sit mid-table with little hope of climbing higher in the final standings, but plenty of room to fall should the season’s final 10 games go sideways.
West Ham — OUT: Andriy Yarmolenko (achilles), Jack Wilshere (ankle), Aaron Cresswell (toe), Carlos Sanchez (knee), Fabian Balbuena (knee), Winston Reid (knee) | Newcastle — OUT: Jonjo Shelvey (fitness), Ciaran Clark (knock)
What they’re saying
Manuel Pellegrini, on Newcastle’s progression: “I think that in both cases, in December and now, Newcastle were in a good moment. When we went to Newcastle and beat them there, they had come from a run of three games in a row winning. Now, I think they are a more consistent team, a difficult team to score against because they don’t concede too many chances. They have also won their last two games at home, so they are having a good moment.”
Rafa Benitez, on the season’s target: “My message to the players, and everyone, is that we still have a lot of work to do. We have to stay calm and have to approach every game with the same idea we had from day one. The next game is the most important and if we can get to 38 or 40 points, we can enjoy it a bit more if possible. We can see the future that we have along with the other teams around us. However, that means nothing because three or four weeks ago, we were thinking it would be very difficult. Now, we are starting to talk about finishing tenth. We have to stay calm and have to go there to try and get three points.”
The difference in each side’s form while home and away is stark. West Ham will be the fresher of two sides after resting the aforementioned key figures, while Newcastle are due for a come-down. Saturday should be one of the three or four times each season when West Ham are unplayable and romp to victory, only to come crashing back down to Earth the following week.