Stoke City v Newcastle United preview: Out-of-form duo meet at the Bet365 Stadium
Last Updated: 01/01/18 7:55am
Stoke and Newcastle will both be aiming for maximum points when they meet in the Premier League on New Year's Day after struggling in recent weeks.
The Magpies have won just one of their last 12 matches in the top flight, and ground out a 0-0 draw against Brighton on Saturday, but goalkeeper Karl Darlow says the team are keeping their spirits up.
"We have stayed fairly positive throughout. We have been through a bad patch, but that can happen in the Premier League with the quality you are up against," he said.
"It will be tough - Stoke away is never easy is it? It's one of those games that we need to mentally prepare for. We are professional and we have to make sure we are fit and ready to go for that. We have to be in the best possible shape to go there and get three points."
Stoke are one place and one point ahead of Newcastle in 15th, and will be looking for three points after being thrashed 5-0 by Chelsea on Saturday.
They could make a bit of history too, having won their last four home Premier League meetings with the Magpies and never winning five consecutively against a single opponent in the competition.
Newcastle will make a series of late checks before naming his team to face Stoke. Rafa Benitez will assess the bumps and bruises picked up on Saturday and is hoping he will have no further absentees.
Rob Elliot (thigh), Jesus Gamez (ankle), Florian Lejeune (foot) and Aleksandar Mitrovic (back) all missed out against Brighton, a game for which the Spaniard made seven changes.
Stoke are set to recall a handful of players for Monday's game. Mark Hughes fielded a weakened side on Saturday but is expected to bring Xherdan Shaqiri, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Joe Allen back into his starting line-up.
Kurt Zouma, ineligible to face Chelsea, could also return along with Eric Pieters but Ryan Shawcross (calf), Glen Johnson (knee) and Bruno Martins Indi (groin) remain unavailable.
Newcastle have only beaten Stoke home and away in a Premier League season once before - back in 2011-12 when they finished fifth under Alan Pardew.
Stoke's last home league defeat on New Year's Day came in 1988 (W4 D3 since), which was also when Newcastle's last away win on January 1st came (D1 L2 since).
Stoke have kept just two clean sheets in the Premier League this season - the fewest in the division. It's their fewest tally of clean sheets from the opening 21 league games of the season since 2002-03 (1).
Newcastle have lost each of their last 12 away league matches played on a Monday, a run that stretches back to December 2012 - they have failed to score in nine of those defeats, including a 1-0 defeat to Burnley this season.
The Magpies haven't won consecutive Premier League away games since November 2014.
Stoke's total of 20 points after 21 games is their worst-ever haul at this stage of a Premier League season.
Rafael Benitez is yet to lose a Premier League match against Stoke (P6 W3 D3 L0) - the Spaniard has only faced West Brom more often without losing (eight games).
Wow. This is what you call a big match. Whoever loses this is in for a long season. People will say it's only three points but this is such a big game. Stoke were under severe pressure the last time they played at home and they managed to win, and I am going to back them again to win this one.
I called the Stoke rotation when I did my predictions last week. You have to pick games. I know it's not nice for the fans and you don't want to lose 5-0, but there is no point playing your best team against Chelsea and giving your all and then losing 1-0. Two games in two days is massive. People might say the players earn fortunes so of course they can do that, but it's not that easy at all. You don't see rugby players doing it. I know they are hitting people but footballers run a lot more so it is about resting.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0 (9/1 with Sky Bet)