The arrival of Papiss Demba Cisse on Tyneside this week created a heightened sense of optimism and expectation among Newcastle fans already delighted that their team occupy sixth place after 21 games.
The Senegalese striker will follow in the footsteps of club legends such as Alan Shearer, Jackie Milburn and Malcolm McDonald by wearing the iconic number nine shirt, which has remained vacant since Andy Carroll’s departure to Liverpool last year.
And while Leon Best has insisted that he is not scared of competition at Newcastle, he will be keen to prove himself an asset to the squad while in-form Demba Ba plays at the Africa Cup of Nations with his new team-mate.
Best, of course, is no stranger to playing in the shadows of better-known strikers.
Having joined the club in 2010 from Coventry City, he struggled to get a look in due to Carroll’s consistently impressive performances. Once the England forward had departed for Merseyside, however, he went on to net six times in nine starts.
With Ba away on international duty, he similarly came to the fore last weekend, grabbing the winning goal in Newcastle’s victory against QPR, as we suggested he might.
He will be buoyed not only by this performance but also by the two goals he netted against Fulham in the reverse fixture in August.
Punters should therefore consider backing him to score the first goal at 7/1. New bwin customers who use their free £25 bet for registering this way will win £200 if successful.
Like Best, Fulham’s Clinton Dempsey was on the scoresheet in the game at St James’ Park. Seen by boss Martin Jol as a key player – reflected in the fact that he has played all bar five minutes in the Premier League this season – he leads the team’s goalscoring charts with six goals from 21 games.
His ability to perform well against top teams won’t have gone unnoticed by Mapgies manager Alan Pardew, who will be aware that he has scored against Liverpool and Chelsea so far this season, as well as grabbing vital assists against Manchester City and Everton.
Expect the American to get in on the action again this weekend and back him to score at any point in the game at 17/10.
One face that many Newcastle fans will not want to see is former player Damien Duff.
While not a prolific scorer for Fulham, nor a regular in their starting line-up, he can on occasions provide the team with a boost in form.
He netted against Blackburn – another of his former clubs – at the weekend and will be hoping that his performance was enough to merit another start.
His last decisive contribution for Newcastle was a memorable one for all the wrong reasons – an own goal against Aston Villa on the final day of the 2008/09 season that ultimately sent the north-east club down to the Championship.
The Irishman could re-open and rub salt into those old wounds by coming on to score and looks to offer decent value at 9/1 to grab the final goal of the game.
You can read a full betting preview of Fulham v Newcastle here.
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