If Alan Pardew didn’t think Newcastle United were in a relegation battle, last weekend’s crushing derby defeat should have confirmed the difficulty of the Toon’s current predicament.
Far from being ‘too good to go down’, Newcastle’s 3-0 loss to Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland left them just five points clear of the relegation zone and it means Pardew will mark this week’s trip to West Brom as a must-win.
However, against a side with the Premier League’s sixth-best home record Newcastle come in as underdogs at 23/10, with a Baggies win at 6/5 and the draw at 11/5.
Of course, for all their troubles, the Toon can still boast a squad filled with talented players.
Chief among those is striker Papiss Cisse, who, with six goals in his last eight games, seems to be single-handedly driving Newcastle’s survival bid.
He’s 11/2 to break the deadlock at the Hawthorns and the same price to repeat his final goal from the reverse fixture against the Baggies back in October.
With the other scorer from that 2-1 win now departed (Demba Ba), Pardew would like to see another of his stars step up and Yohan Cabaye is 11/2 for an fifth anytime goal since returning in late January.
The Magpies have a good recent record against the Baggies, with that victory being their fourth in the last six encounters – all of which have contained three goals or more.
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But Steve Clarke has turned the Baggies into a resolute side, with the 16 goals they’ve conceded at the Hawthorns the fourth best in the division (a home clean sheet is 23/10).
While I do fancy Newcastle’s firepower to get them a goal, West Brom should have enough to earn a second-half draw at an impressive 11/1 that will see the Toon crawl rather than catapult towards safety.