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Preview: Blues v Newcastle United

Posted: Fri 17 Mar 2017

A full match preview ahead of Saturday's Sky Bet Championship fixture between Blues and Newcastle united at St. Andrew's (3pm kick-off).

Gianfranco Zola on looking forward to Blues taking on one of the top sides in the division...
It is a top game against probably the best team in the league. They will obviously want to come back from their last game where they didn't do so well (Newcastle lost 3-1 at home to Fulham). They are coming to take the points they missed in the last game. But we are also determined to carry on, to do another good performance and get the points we need tomorrow.

Gianfranco Zola on the need to be defensively solid against the Magpies...
I know we are playing at home but considering the value of the (Newcastle) team the first thing we will have to do very well is the defensive duties. Obviously, they have a lot of offensive players that can cause problems. That’s the first thing - but it won't be enough. We will have to cause them problems. We have worked on that and obviously tomorrow I am looking forward to seeing that.

Gianfranco Zola on what he is expecting from Newcastle...
Newcastle are a team that has a lot of quality especially in the front players. I'm expecting they will play to try and break us if we give them the opportunity to exploit places in behind. They're a team that when they counter they are very quick and skilful. We will have to be very good not to allow them to use those spaces. That will be very important. It will be about us defending well and trying to find spaces in behind them. We will see which one is going to prevail.

Gianfranco Zola on what he wants to see from his own players…
What I really want from them is to give everything they have got - the maximum commitment. Each one of them, they know what they have to do and I am expecting that they try very hard, it's very simple. And I think, I believe, it's what our supporters also ask. That's what I want, if we do that I think we stand a very good chance, even tomorrow against Newcastle - to get a point or even more than that if we are good.

Gianfranco Zola asked if Blues could learn anything from the way Fulham played to beat Newcastle...
Fulham were excellent when they had the ball and they frustrated Newcastle because they didn't allow them to get the ball often. So, it stopped them getting into the rhythm of the game offensively wise. The Fulham defenders never wasted the ball so it wasn't easy for Newcastle to be effective. I thought that Fulham probably played their best game of the season and this is something we will have to do as well tomorrow. Maybe not doing what Fulham did but something different. We have to be at our best

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez's comments ahead of the game...
Obviously, we were very disappointed last week. We knew Fulham were a good team. They were doing well, but as I said after the game, we made too many mistakes, and we lost an opportunity to get three points. The good thing about this division is that you always have another game soon. We have one tomorrow, and next month we have seven, so we just have to think about the future. When you do so well against Brighton, Huddersfield and Reading, a lot of people were maybe expecting that it was nearly done. But, no – last week was a reminder that we have to carry on and keep working the same way we did before. It was a wake-up call to be sure that everybody is on their toes and ready. On facing Blues, Benitez said...It will be another challenge for us. They have some good players, some new ideas and a new system. Sometimes they play with four at the back, sometimes five at the back – they are trying to find solutions to the problems they have. If we play at the level we normally play, it doesn’t matter if it is away or at home. You have to approach any game against any team with the right mentality. You have to be sure that you do the right things from the beginning, you do not make too many mistakes, and you play at the level you want to play.

Blues team news...
Clayton Donaldson will be in tomorrow's matchday squad after successfully completing two 45 minute outings for Blues Under-23s. Last season's top scorer has not figured for Blues since December 13 because of a heel injury. Jacques Maghoma will also be in the matchday squad. Cheick Keita (knee) returned to training today after missing last weekend's draw at Cardiff, but will have a late fitness test. Michael Morrison has had to undergo a minor operation this week after, which has put his recovery from groin surgery back a week. 

Newcastle team news...
Newcastle will be without Ciaran Clark (knee), DeAndre Yedlin (thigh) and Jamie Sterry (groin) problem. Paul Dummett has been playing with a heel injury, but should play. Isaac Hayden and Rolando Aarons are also sidelined because of injury.

Supporter behaviour...
The Club urges all supporters to refrain from anti-social behaviour and conduct themselves in the correct manner at all our games, inside and outside the ground. The overwhelming majority of our support is well behaved, law-abiding and the passionate backing the team receives is greatly appreciated. However, as a Club we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding anti-social behaviour and spectator misconduct. This includes - amongst other things - drunkenness, throwing of coins and use and carrying of pyrotechnics (flares, smoke bombs), racist and/or homophobic chanting. In particular, the throwing of coins and other missiles is extremely dangerous and is not tolerated whatsoever. This is a very serious offence and any supporter identified to have committed this and other such acts will be banned by the Club and subject to the possibility of criminal prosecution. Birmingham City Football Club will continue to work closely with the police, football authorities and ground authorities to stamp out all types spectator misconduct. We would also like to remind supporters that if there are incidents of this nature in the future the Football Association have the power to impose a serious financial penalty on the Club and order matches to be played behind closed doors. The Club urges all supporters to assist us and help eradicate unlawful practices. Thank you.

Ticket details... 
Tickets are on general sale for this game. For prices and purchasing details click here.

Form guide last five Championship matches...
Blues: LWLLD
Newcastle: DWWDL

Match officials...
Referee Simon Hooper will take charge of Saturday's game at St. Andrew's. So far this season the Wiltshire-based official has refereed 35 games, where he has produced a total of 129 yellow cards and three reds. The last Blues fixture he took charge of was our Championship away game at Norwich City in January. That match ended in a 2-0 defeat for Blues. Three players were cautioned in total, including Ryan Shotton and Jonathan Grounds for Blues. Mr Hooper will be assisted by Akil Howson and Christopher Akers.

Last five meetings between Blues and Newcastle...
FA Cup 18 Jan 2017 Newcastle 3 Blues 1
FA Cup 07 Jan 2017 Blues 1 Newcastle 1
Championship 10 Dec 2016 Newcastle 4 Blues 0
Premier League 07 May 2011 Newcastle 2 Blues 1
Premier League 15 Feb 2011 Blues 0 Newcastle 2

Other Sky Bet Championship fixtures this weekend…
Friday 17 March
Bristol City v Huddersfield Town 19:45
Sheffield Wednesday v Reading 19:45

Saturday 18 March 
Blackburn Rovers v Preston North End 13:00
Nottingham Forest v Derby County 13:00
Burton Albion v Brentford 15:00
Cardiff City v Ipswich Tow 15:00
Fulham v Wolverhampton Wanderers 15:00
Norwich City v Barnsley 15:00
Queens Park Rangers v Rotherham United 15:00
Wigan Athletic v Aston Villa 15:00
Leeds United v Brighton & Hove Albion 17:30