Newcastle United vs AFC Bournemouth Preview: Improving hosts face goal-shy Cherries 
Photo: Jan Kruger / Getty

As the final weekend of Premier League fixtures begin before the last international break of the calendar year, AFC Bournemouth travel to Tyneside to face Newcastle United at St. James' Park on Saturday afternoon.

After very differing starts the league campaign, the fortunes of both sides have rather switched places in recent weeks, with the Magpies arguably the more in-form side ahead the weekend's clash.

Following successive losses to open the Steve Bruce era, Newcastle's away days have still proved to be problematic with defeats at Liverpool, Chelsea, coupled with a 5-0 thumping against high-flying Leicester City.

The Magpies however picked up their second victory on the road - the first versus Spurs back in August - to complete a capital double against West Ham United last time out, with Bruce's side having taken four points from the last two games.

The Cherries meanwhile ended a three-game spell without a single goal with a 1-0 win against struggling Manchester United at the Vitality last weekend, but Eddie Howe will be concerned regarding his side's lack of creativity in the past month, a statistic Bournemouth look to remedy in the North-East on Saturday.

Despite their comparative goal drought in recent weeks, the visitors still sit comfortably in the top half, but with just four points separating the teams here, a home win could catapult Newcastle themselves into the upper echelons of the league standings.

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Previous meetings

Saturday's meeting will the 13th meeting between the two sides, but who will it prove to be unlucky for?

It will be the seventh game under the Premier League umbrella, four of which have seen four goals during the respective contests, with the records reading 2D, 2L, 2W a-piece.

The Magpies are unbeaten in their last three meetings with the Dorset outfit, indeed their in the corresponding fixture almost 12 months to the day, a Salomon Rondon first-half brace was enough to take all three points last November.

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Key player

One of the most underrated commodities in the English top flight, Jonjo Shelvey's return to the Magpies' nest is a timely boost for Bruce, who has been nothing if not consistent during his time with the 'Toon.

Starring alongside Isaac Hayden in midfield against West Ham last time out, the once England international continues as not only one of the best passers of the ball at Newcastle but in the top flight as a whole, and versus the Irons also was on the score sheet at the London Stadium.

Taking on a Cherries side this time around that whilst having encountered problems in merely finding a steady flow of goals, Howe's men not have conceded in three league games, which will likely make Shelvey's distribution this weekend all the more pivotal.

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Team news

Having kept rotation to a minimum in recent weeks, Bruce is unlikely to make many changes for the visit of Bournemouth - if any.

Should the Magpies boss opt to freshen up his side, Matt Ritchie (knee) is still absent whilst Fabian Schar (ankle) too is not ready to return.

Sean Longstaff serves the second of his three-match ban, whilst namesake Matthew Longstaff will likely remain as a substitute, given his side's strong away showing seven days ago.

The Cherries are forced to shuffle their pack with Jefferson Lerma suspended, meaning Lewis Cook may come into central midfield to partner Philip Billing.

With Junior Stanislas and David Brooks still long-term absentees, both Harry Wilson and Ryan Fraser are set to keep their wing roles in spite of a lack creativity in the final third, however Jordon Ibe and Dominic Solanke are both options in attack.

Predicted Line-ups

Newcastle United: Dubravka; Yedlin, Fernandez, Lascelles, Clark, Willems; Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Saint-Maximin; Joelinton.

AFC Bournemouth: Ramsdale; Smith, S Cook, Ake, Rico; H Wilson, L Cook, Billing, Fraser; C Wilson, King.