Why Newcastle versus Norwich will be won and lost in the middle of the park
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All eyes turn back to the football on Saturday afternoon as the Transfer Window slams shut and a wealth of Premier League teams look to secure their top-flight status with the resources they have.

And at St James' Park, both teams would have pinpointed this fixture as an opportunity to pick up points.

Bogged down

The key battles between Newcastle United and Norwich City will be in the middle of the pitch, both sides averaging less than 25% of action in the opposition third this season, less than any other side.

The issues of dominating the ball in dangerous areas extend to the six-yard box for the two Eastern clubs - only 5% of their shots have been in such positions, again less than any other side in the league.

Similarly, they are both in the bottom two for average number of crosses per game, Norwich contributing 12 and Newcastle manufacturing 15. Central midfield will be key.

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Short passes vs set-pieces

Despite being bottom of the table, Norwich average almost double the number of short passes per game than their hosts, making 412 to Newcastle's 257 - again the lowest in the league with an average of just 39% possession.

The Canaries have been strong when attacking through the middle, adept at picking out the willing runs through the channels of Teemu Pukki. And Newcastle haven't always been strong defending in such positions, Pukki netting a hat-trick against them back in August.

But where the Geordies come good is from set-pieces, thus the likes of Alex Tettey and Kenny McLean will have to be disciplined in defensive midfield.

Newcastle have scored a mammoth 50% of goals from corners or free-kicks, the most in the league, whilst only Everton have conceded more goals from such positions than the Canaries.

To the end

The final game before the winter break, this is a key fixture for both sides in their quest to remain in the Premier League.

Long ball versus short ball, neither set of players can afford to start thinking about their holidays - Newcastle have scored their last three goals in the 93rd minute or later...

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