A scrap to avoid the relegation zone is set for Saturday at Vitality Stadium, where Bournemouth look to help their cause for staying up in the top flight at the expense of a Newcastle United side unable to build off their lone victory this season.
The Cherries are just above the drop, one point better than Newcastle. As expected, the first season in the Premier League has become a grind for Bournemouth, who have dropped four on the trot across all competitions and are winless in their last five in league play (0-1-4).
The latest setback came Sunday at Southampton, where the Cherries (2-2-7) conceded both goals in their 2-0 defeat in a five-minute span of the first half. The defence tightened in the week's two defeats - Bournemouth also were bounced from the League Cup with a 1-0 loss at Liverpool on Oct. 28 after giving up 10 goals in their previous two league setbacks to Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur - and manager Eddie Howe thinks things are on the uptick as they head into this weekend.
"The positive is the players did respond in the second half and put on a much-improved performance," he told the team's official website. "Physically we weren't where we needed to be. It looked like the game on Wednesday had an effect on some of our players."
Bournemouth have scored more than one goal in just two of their 11 league matches, and six of their 12 goals on the season came in their two victories.
Newcastle (1-4-6), meanwhile, netted half of their 12 goals in their 6-2 victory over Norwich City on Oct. 18. There have been no goals since for the Magpies, who did turn in their first clean sheet with last Saturday's scoreless draw at home versus Stoke City. Still, Steve McClaren's side were left to rue a standout performance by Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland, who twice thwarted Moussa Sissoko to deny Newcastle the full points.
"We have to accept the result as it is but we are not happy with it, obviously," defender Chancel Mbemba told Newcastle's official website. "All the luck was on (Butland's) side. He performed magnificently and kept out every chance we created.
"Keeping a clean sheet gives everyone confidence that we're not going to concede goals too easily anymore. We need to take this forward now and try to keep more because if we do that then we are going to pick up points."
McClaren continues to use makeshift lineups as he deals with injuries throughout the squad, but he may be able to call on Siem De Jong after the Swiss midfielder was able to play a full 90 minutes for Newcastle's U-21 squad in their 2-0 victory over their counterparts from Aston Villa. De Jong's only two starts this season came in the Magpies' League Cup matches versus Northampton in August and Sheffield Wednesday in September.
Newcastle have endured a terrible start on the road, claiming just one point from their five matches while being outscored 13-1. The Magpies are winless in their last 12 (0-2-10) outside St James' Park in league play since a 3-0 victory at Hull City on Jan. 31.
The teams are playing a regular-season match for the first time since both toiled in the Second Division in 1989-90. The teams last met in the 1992 FA Cup, with Bournemouth advancing on penalties in a replay of the third round.