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Newcastle United-West Brom Preview
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Newcastle United travel to The Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion on Sunday still hopeful of pushing for a European place.
The Magpies are sixth in the table and just two points behind Chelsea going into the latest round of Premier League matches, and despite winning just one of their last four in the league, are eyeing a big finish to the campaign.
"We've got nine big games left, and we'll take a lot of positives into them," said defender Mike Williamson. "The next nine games will be like mini-cup finals. There's going to be a lot of pressure on us. We've got to get ourselves mentally and physically right.
"The lads have been brilliant all season, and it's all about keeping the momentum and sticking together. That's a simple task here - it's an honest group. They work hard every day.
"There's been no difference from the first game to this game. It's just about continuing what we're doing. Hopefully, we'll get the rub of the green."
Hosts West Brom are comfortably mid-table, a full 13 points clear of the bottom three, and assistant coach Keith Downing is hoping for a top-half finish once Premier League safety is assured.
"This has been a very good season because this time last year we were sitting looking over our shoulders and were slightly worried about things," said Downing. "Hopefully this year we can get to that 40 points as soon as we can and keep looking up and get as high as we can.
"It would be great if we could have 40 points at the beginning of April and still have five or six games left to show how much has been achieved over the last 12 months.
"Newcastle have had a fantastic season and they're only a few points off the Europa League and the top four even," continued the West Brom assistant. "Alan Pardew has done a great job.
"We played really well up there (when West Brom won 3-2 at Newcastle in December). It was probably one of our best away performances and this could be the second team we can do the double over. There is something to aim for but we have generally done pretty well against them in home games. We know it will be a tough game. Demba Ba is always a threat and they've got some good players. No-one expected them to be in that top six or top seven - they've done a great job."
The Baggies are without Steven Reid (ankle) and Zoltan Gera (knee), while Peter Odemwingie is doubtful with a calf strain. Cheik Tiote (thigh) is a doubt for Newcastle, but Ryan Taylor (calf), Peter Lovenkrands (thigh), Leon Best (knee), Sammy Ameobi (knee), Steven Taylor (Achilles) and Sylvain Marveaux (groin) remain out.
West Brom have scored just 14 goals in 14 games at The Hawthorns this season, with only Wigan Athletic managing fewer home goals in the Premier League. However, the Baggies have won their last two at home, scoring five goals. Newcastle's 1-0 win over Norwich ended a run of four games without victory, while the Magpies have won just once in their last five top-flight away games. Demba Ba is the fourth highest goal-scorer in the league, but is without a goal in his last five appearances.
Updated March 23, 2012