Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League on Thursday with a come from behind victory at West Ham. Two goals from in form Theo Walcott and another from the returning Lucas Podolski was enough to put the Hammers down that day.
In Newcastle, though, they face a different test. Having already beaten Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United, Alan Pardew‘s men find themselves in very positive form. Dropping only two points in their last four games now leaves Newcastle in sixth position going into the weekend and only a win away from a Champions League spot.
Arsenal, on the other hand, have struggled in recent games. Prior to the West Ham victory on Thursday, Arsenal had only the single victory in December in the Premier League. That was at home to Hull City and at the Emirates.
Newcastle will also welcome back Cheick Tiote, who was suspended in the win over Stoke on Thursday. Arsenal, on the other hand, while welcoming back Jack Wilshire after his two match ban for a silly gesture to the Manchester City fans, also lose out on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and possibly even defender Laurent Koscielny.
So the game should be a really entertaining one with both sides capable of conceding as many as they have been scoring. With a victory Arsenal will go into the New Year top of the pile which has to be a great motivator for Arsene Wenger. Likewise, a win for Newcastle keeps pressure on those top four and potentially a European place.
Jason Bardwell is a Soccer writer for Rant Sport. You can follow him on Twitter @PACityboy or on www.facebook.com/jasonbardwell1979.