Newcastle United-Hull City Preview
Hull City will be desperate for three points Saturday when they welcome Newcastle United to the KC Stadium.
Steve Bruce's Hull (4-7-11) are stuck in the relegation zone despite two of their four wins coming in the last five games, and a host of injury problems have derailed the club's campaign to such an extent that Bruce is now facing calls to be sacked - less than a year since he steered the club to their best league finish and first FA Cup final appearance.
The Tigers have picked up just nine points at home - a joint-league low with Sunderland - and have racked up the smallest number of attempts on target of any team in the Premier League. Combine those attacking stats with a shaky defensive record and an inconsistent team selection - partly due to the club's major injury problems - and it's a recipe for relegation. However, Bruce is confident his team have enough quality to pull themselves out of trouble.
"It's a mammoth game for both clubs but especially for us," Bruce said. "There is no question about it, we have to beat Newcastle and I'll be doing everything I can to bring that about.
"We have 16 games left to secure our survival and our home matches will be the key starting with Newcastle on Saturday. We obviously haven't enjoyed the best of times results wise after a decent start to the season but then neither have they. United have lost seven of their last nine so they will be fragile and we need to get at them. We know our situation, it is crystal clear, but Newcastle have to be careful or they could slide into a relegation fight."
Newcastle took their time to consider managerial options after the departure of Alan Pardew, and this week confirmed caretaker boss John Carver will remain in charge for the rest of the season - despite not winning a game since taking over.
The Magpies' record under Carver started with a 3-3 draw with Burnley, was followed by an FA Cup exit at the first hurdle and has since seen back-to-back league defeats. The likable Carver is a keen Newcastle fan, but he has no significant experience beyond a number of largely unsuccessful caretaker spells.
That stated, he is looking forward to the challenge of keeping Newcastle United in the top flight.
"I'm delighted to have got the job until the end of the season," Carver said. "Everyone knows I love this club and my goals are simple - to finish as high as we can in the Premier League and get as many points as we can.
"We can't afford to let the season drift away and I won't allow it to happen. I'm too demanding and I won't allow anyone to slacken off between now and the end of May."
The injury lists are long for both teams. Hull will be without Alex Bruce (thigh), James Chester (shoulder), Liam Rosenior (hamstring) and Andy Robertson (ankle) in defence, remain without summer signings Mohamed Diame (knee) and Robert Snodgrass (knee) in midfield, and are expected to be missing the recovering Nikica Jelavic (knee) and Abel Hernandez (groin) up top.
Newcastle's treatment room contains Jak Alnwick (shoulder), Paul Dummett (hamstring), Steven Taylor (calf), Ryan Taylor (knee), Rolando Aarons (hamstring), Gabriel Obertan (hip) and Siem de Jong (thigh).
Newcastle came from two goals down to draw 2-2 when these teams met in September. That result made it three draws in the seven total Premier League meetings between these clubs. Hull have beaten the Magpies three times in the top flight, while Newcastle's only win in the fixture was a 4-1 rout at the KC Stadium last season.