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Posted on 11 January 2007  - 12:00

Chris Hughton's gives his assessment of Newcastle United ahead of Sunday's clash in the Barclays Premiership at the Lane.

Chris Hughton's gives his assessment of Newcastle United ahead of Sunday's clash in the Barclays Premiership at the Lane.

WE PLAYED against Newcastle recently at St James' Park so in terms of preparation, their system of play, the personnel, set-pieces and general strengths are all still fresh in the mind. We hope that's also the case for the defeat, especially the fact that we conceded two early goals.

We were dealt a blow when we lost Jermain Defoe in the warm up, so we had to change things and we could argue that period just before kick-off, when we had to change our plans, had an affect on our start but the fact is they got off to a good start and won the game.

We got back into the game and I would have to say at 2-1 we were playing well enough to get back on equal terms and who knows after that? The third goal was the decisive one and this is an opportunity to redress the balance.

I’d expect to see a 4-4-2 system as it’s been for most of the season with Nicky Butt and Scott Parker in central midfield. Butt’s had an indifferent period since he left United both at Birmingham and Newcastle but maybe this is his most consistent spell in the team, and it shows. What you have in Butt and Parker are two players who can really compete in those central areas.

We’re not quite as sure what they will do in the wide areas but one option is Emre, who could play wide on the left or more infield. He has wonderful ability, a lovely left foot and is dangerous in general play and set-plays. James Milner is someone I’ve a lot of admiration for, a young player who looks like he's worked hard at his game, a good crosser of the ball who can play on either flank.

The options up front are Obafemi Martins, who I’m sure will play. He’s in form and he’s one of those players who can be out of the game but then produce something out of nothing. He has electric pace and is someone who is used to playing at the very top level. Kieron Dyer is back and everyone is aware that when you are up against a fit Dyer, you are up against a dangerous player who can play behind the front or in midfield and then break with great pace. We sampled that at St James’ Park three weeks ago.

The consistent players of late in defence are Steven Taylor and Craig Ramage and they’ve had problems in the full-back areas with Stephen Carr and Celestine Babayaro injured, so Nolberto Solano played at right-back against us, the lad Paul Huntington left-back and Shay Given in goal.

On paper it’s a very good team and it’s no surprise they’ve picked up of late, although a couple of results against Bolton and Everton won’t have been what they wanted. They drew against United and Birmingham and for me, with that quality, they are capable of going on a run again.