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Know Your Opponent: Newcastle

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I had the pleasure of asking Robert Bishop and Reno Wilson of Coming Home Newcastle "Five Questions" about the upcoming match between Fulham and Newcastle. I think it is great to get the opposition's perspective from writers who follow that team.

I also answered "Five questions" on Fulham for Coming Home Newcastle. Please feel free to check out their post.

Here are my five questions below with the writers of Coming Home Newcastle.

1. Chris Hughton has done a great job as manager of Newcastle bringing the team back up from relegation. Do you feel he is the right man to move Newcastle up the table in the future?

We've been some of the most vocal supporters of Hughton for the whole season. I like his demeanor and I like his head for the game. He gets the best out of his squad on a day in day out basis, and at the end of the day that's what will separate an manager from the pack. When we've suffered losses here early in the season there have been lots of folks calling for Hughton's head, saying that he wasn't ready for the Prem. His recent work has quieted the detractors and we're hoping that a new contract is in the near future.

2. Andy Carroll is an exciting young talent. Do you fear losing him at some point to another club if the transfer offer is significant? Also, would you keep him under any circumstances?

I don't fear it. The lad is Geordie born and bread and all he's ever wanted to do was play Newcastle United football. It is frustrating as I'm sure you're aware that when a "small" club grows some good talent up, the big 4 act like they have a right to it. If Andy ever leaves NUFC it will be because owner Mike Ashley was looking to make a quick buck.

I assume that the second part of your question has to do with his off-field antics. The lad has got some maturing to do in several areas, and I'll be honest if he doesn't straighten himself out I'd be one of the ones calling to ship him on despite his talent.

3. What is the major weakness of Newcastle going into the match with Fulham?

A emerging strength of NUFC has been it's midfield. The problem this week is that we'll be half of the equation in the middle. Joey Barton and Cheik Tiote are out, which puts Allen Smith and Wayne Routledge on first team. Routledge is basically a trade off with Barton, we trade Barton's poise and vision, for Routledge's pace. BUT, missing out on Tiote is going to be HUGE in this game. Smith will really have to step up in a way that we haven't seen from him at all this year.

4. What is the major strength of Newcastle going into the match with Fulham?

We score about 3/4's of our goals off set pieces, and Fullham have a known weakness defending them. If we can force the issue and earn a lot of them then it will be a hard game to win for FFC.

5. What is the key match-up of the game in your opinion?

Given what I've just said about set pieces I think the biggest match up will be Andy Carroll vs. whomever Fullham decides to assign him to. I think given the pace we'll have on the field it will be tough for FFC to avoid the set pieces so it will come down to whether they can keep Andy's head off the ball.

Could you also give me a prediction and why?

I see this being a race to 3, with the slight edge in favor of Newcastle. Neither side will dominate, and both sides will be scoring. NUFC 3-2 FFC.

I want to thank Robert Bishop and Reno Wilson of Coming Home Newcastle for their thoughts on Newcastle and this match-up.