Stoke City-Newcastle United Preview
By JEFF FLETCHER
STATS European Editor
(AP) -- Newcastle United have their sights set firmly on Europe as they welcome Stoke City to St James' Park on Boxing Day.
The Magpies (9-3-5) have moved into the top six after winning six of their last eight matches in the Premier League. They won 3-0 at Crystal Palace last weekend with strikes from Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and an own goal from Eagles defender Danny Gabbidon.
Goalkeeper Tim Krul, who has kept six clean sheets this season, was delighted with the victory at Selhurst Park and believes his side can take that winning mentality into Thursday's match against Stoke.
"To win 3-0 at Crystal Palace in these conditions we can be proud of ourselves," Krul told the Newcastle club website. "It is the spirit and confidence in each other. We have fantastic players, even coming off the bench and giving us extra spark. It makes the difference.
"It is a quick recovery for Thursday but what a confidence boost and we can keep looking up. You have so many games, this was the first of five in two weeks. It is exciting times, especially when you win like that and now I'm looking forward to two home games."
Stoke (5-6-6) have made steady progress under Mark Hughes in recent weeks after a slow start to the season. The Potters have lost just once in their last eight Premier League outings and moved up into the top half of the table after Saturday's 2-1 home win over Aston Villa, with Charlie Adam and Peter Crouch scoring second-half goals.
Potters manager Hughes is confident his side will do well at St James' Park, even though Newcastle are undefeated in their last five home matches.
"Newcastle are a decent side who are playing well and winning games at the moment," Hughes told the Stoke club website. "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.
"I'm mindful of the fact that we've got so many games coming up in a short space of time," he added. "We'll have to see how Boxing Day goes but I've got a good squad and I've got good players that can come in if I need them to."
Newcastle midfielder Cheick Tiote will miss Thursday's game due to suspension after he picked up his fifth booking of the season at Palace.
Stoke's on-loan midfielder Stephen Ireland is available again after being ineligible for the match against his parent club Villa.
Both sides won at home when these two met last season. The Potters won 2-1 at the Britannia Stadium in November with goals from Jonathan Walters and Cameron Jerome after Papiss Cisse had put the Magpies ahead.
Newcastle also rallied to win 2-1 at St. James' Park in March. Walters scored from the spot on 67 minutes, but Cabaye scored five minutes later to equalise before Cisse scored the winner in the second minute of stoppage time.
Stoke have won just one of their last five trips to St. James' Park in all competitions, losing three times and drawing once. They conceded 12 times in those five matches.
Updated December 24, 2013