Newcastle vs Bournemouth

​Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez has said Mikel Merino will be out for “a couple of weeks at least” with a back injury.

Isaac Hayden has recovered from a minor calf problem and is available, but Paul Dummett is not ready to return.

Bournemouth will be without Benik Afobe and Junior Stanislas, who were both substituted because of injuries during the defeat by Chelsea last weekend.

Callum Wilson will be looking to make his first league start in more than a year following a serious knee injury.

COMMENTATOR’S NOTES

Guy Mowbray: “It’s not a fixture to set neutral pulses racing, but this could be one that rises from nowhere to lead the MOTD running order. ‘You wish’, I hear you say!

“Newcastle need to win. Anything else would make a satisfactory Premier League return seem far less so going into the last international staging post pre-Christmas.

“They’re solid, they’re organised, but they need to make control of games count with goals.

“Bottom three Bournemouth’s struggle to score is even more real, with only Crystal Palace hitting the net less often this season.

“After Eddie Howe bemoaned his side being too passive against Chelsea last Saturday, it’s time for the Cherries to charge in a bit more.”

MANAGERS NOTES

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez: “I have told the players something they already know – we have to have perspective. Nobody was expecting we would be in the top 10.

“We are much better than people were expecting. It could be better, but it could be worse. We have to be competitive and make sure we are good enough to stay up. Then we can continue to build from that.”

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe: “These games will define our season in the respect of what kind of season we’ll go on to have.

“We’ve scored six goals, that’s not enough, and we’ve not been potent enough in the final third. That is not down to one individual, but as a team.

“We’ve always been a team that has attacked with everyone and we need to get our fluidity back in that sense.

MATCH FACTS

Head-to-head

This is the ninth meeting between these sides and only the fifth in a league competition.

Bournemouth won the corresponding fixture 3-1 in March 2016, which resulted in the sacking of Newcastle head coach Steve McClaren six days later.

The last time Newcastle beat Bournemouth at St. James’ Park was in February 1990, with Micky Quinn scoring twice in a 3-0 win.

Newcastle United

Newcastle have recorded just one win in their last five Premier League matches (D2, L2).

The Magpies have only lost once at St. James’ Park in the Premier League under Rafa Benitez (W6, D3).

Benitez has won 66% of his home games in charge of Newcastle, with 25 victories from 38 games in all competitions.

Benitez has also lost just once in 58 home top-flight games played on a Saturday (W47, D10).

Matt Ritchie has recorded five Premier League assists this season; only Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva have more, with six each.

AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth have won once in their last five Premier League games (D1, L3).

The Cherries have had just five shots on target in their last three league matches.

Their last Premier League away win at Stoke was only their second in 14 games.

They last won back-to-back away games in the Premier League in December 2015, at Chelsea and West Brom.

Jermain Defoe has scored on each of his last three Premier League visits to St. James’ Park.

Defoe’s next goal will be his 200th in league competition.

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