By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Managing Editor
Newcastle United entertain Stoke City in the Barclays Premier League on Boxing Day at St. James' Park (3pm kick-off).
The Magpies go into the fixture on the back of an eye-catching 3-0 victory at Crystal Palace - the latest result in a superb run of form which has seen them pick up 19 points from the last 24 on offer.
Stoke also were triumphant last time out, against Aston Villa, but have been a mixed bag this term under new boss Mark Hughes and find themselves halfway up the table.
When the sides met last season it was honours even. The Potters picked up all three points at the Britannia Stadium in November, but Papiss Cisse's last-gasp winner gained revenge for Alan Pardew's side in March.
Wednesday's game is the 86th match between the teams, and the 75th in the league.
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10th March, 2013 - Newcastle 2 (Cabaye 72, Cisse 90) Stoke 1 (Walters 67pen)
Newcastle United (4-2-3-1): Rob Elliot; Mathieu Debuchy, Steven Taylor, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Davide Santon (Massadio Haidara 74); Cheick Tiote (Sylvain Marveaux 74), Yohan Cabaye; Jonas Gutierrez, Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran (Adam Campbell 87); Papiss Cisse
Stoke City (4-4-2): Asmir Begovic; Geoff Cameron, Ryan Shawcross, Marc Wilson, Andy Wilkinson; Ryan Shotton, Glenn Whelan, Steven N'Zonzi, Jonathan Walters; Cameron Jerome (Dean Whitehead 88), Peter Crouch (Kenwyne Jones 84)
FULL RECORD v STOKE
P85 W42 D19 L24 F148 A98
(Last six games - all competitions)
Newcastle - WDWLWW
Stoke - WLDWDL
Newcastle (v Crystal Palace, Premier League): Tim Krul; Mathieu Debuchy, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon; Vurnon Anita, Cheick Tiote, Yohan Cabaye (Hatem Ben Arfa 79); Moussa Sissoko, Loic Remy (Shola Ameobi 75), Yoan Gouffran
Not used: Rob Elliot, Massadio Haidara, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Gabriel Obertan, Papiss Cisse
Stoke (v Aston Villa, Premier League): Asmir Begovic; Geoff Cameron, Ryan Shawcross, Marc Wilson; Steven N'Zonzi, Glenn Whelan; Jonathan Walters, Marko Arnautovic (Charlie Adam 46), Oussama Assaidi (Jermaine Pennant 72); Peter Crouch
Not used: Thomas Sorensen, Andy Wilkinson, Marc Muniesa, Wilson Palacios, Kenwyne Jones
Newcastle - Loic Remy (8)
Stoke - Charlie Adam (4)
Stoke - Ex-Magpies loanee Stephen Ireland is available again after being ineligible to face parent club Aston Villa last weekend. Centre-back Robert Huth is ruled out with a knee injury, but winger Matthew Etherington (back) and captain Ryan Shawcross (groin) could be fit.
A WORD FROM BOTH CAMPS
Alan Pardew, Newcastle manager: "We have got ourselves into a fantastic position and now we have got to try to push on. It's been terrific, particularly the last two months. It's about now sustaining that. But it's not a complete surprise to me. A lot of this team was the team that finished fifth two years ago and they have got experience. We have got good experience in the group and we have got a lot of energy, and it's that energy that has really taken us up a notch."
Mark Hughes, Stoke manager: "Newcastle are a decent side who are playing well and winning games at the moment. They are in good shape but so are we. If we were to go there lacking in confidence there's every possibility we would come unstuck but our confidence is high. If ever there was a good time to go there, for us, it's probably now."
Martin Atkinson (Yorkshire): 2013/14 record - 20 games, 63 yellow cards, 1 red card
PLAYED FOR BOTH TEAMS
Shola Ameobi, Viv Busby, George Eastham, Abdoulaye Faye, Amdy Faye, Andy Griffin, Jonathan Woodgate
FANCY A FLUTTER?
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DID YOU KNOW?
Stoke midfielder Steven N'Zonzi has made 1,009 passes this season - 391 more than any other Potters player.