Newcastle United travel to The Emirates Stadium in The Emirates FA Cup Third Round to face Emirates FA Cup holders Arsenal on Saturday night in the 5.30pm kick off live on BBC's Match of the Day to see who progresses to the 4th Round of English football's oldest competition in a match that must be decided on the night with penalties if necessary.
If the last thing Newcastle fans wanted to see was Arsenal returning to winning form just before playing them twice in quick succession in The FA Cup and Premier League then perhaps the last thing Arsenal fans wanted to see was Andy Carroll return to goal-scoring form with his first goal for his hometown club since 2011 just before playing a club he loves scoring against.
Carroll, who turned 32 on Wednesday, came on and scored within three minutes against a Leicester City side who had dominated proceedings at St. James' Park until the big Geordie's arrival put the fear of God into Brendan Rodger's men & with the striker having previous with Arsenal, Mikel Arteta will know he has his work cut-out on Saturday.
Carroll was the last player to score a Newcastle winner at The Emirates way back in 2010 when Chris Hughton's side recorded a 1-0 victory against Arsene Wenger's Gunners when he headed in a free-kick by Joey Barton, who left Fleetwood as Manager this week.
And Carroll has terrorised Arsenal in the colours of West Ham as well as Newcastle scoring a hat-trick against The Gunners in a 3-3 draw in 2016 & one member of that team, Hector Bellerin, was playing in Arsenal's 4-0 win at West Brom last week, although may not play at the weekend in potentially much-changed teams for both clubs.
Having had their season disrupted by Covid-19 and fallen to 15th place in The Premier League, Newcastle play Sheffield United in a must-win game on Tuesday night, Steve Bruce faces a selection dilemma this week.
After spending the past few months on the sidelines, Andy Carroll's goal will surely have earned him a place in the starting line-up with Bruce speaking of the Geordie's desperation to play and how he has mulled over playing him up top with Callum Wilson:
"He wants to play every game.
"The good thing now is he's obviously fit and raring to go.
We've played him up there only a couple of times with Callum Wilson so yeah it is something to think about.
"It's something to work on."
That's exactly how Newcastle shaped up at the start of the season for the opening game of the campaign away to West Ham with Carroll playing 88 minutes and thriving, raking a volley over the crossbar of his former club after a sumptuous piece of skill, as Wilson and Jeff Hendrick's notched to kick off The Magpies season with a win:
In fact, England's capital city, London, has been a happy hunting ground for Newcastle this season with wins over The Hammers and Crystal Palace and a draw at Spurs in The Premier League although a Covid-19 crisis contributed to The Magpies crashing out of The Carabao Cup to Brentford, something Bruce wants to correct on Saturday night.
There may be even be a twinge of revenge about facing Arsenal, the side who beat Bruce's Hull City side 3-2 at Wembley in the 2014 Final and one returning face Newcastle fans will be delighted to see help in that quest is goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, who having returned to full training and fitness recently, will get his first taste of first team football.
Karl Darlow has been exceptional this season between the sticks for Newcastle so Dubravka will have to bide his time and be patient to regain that no. 1 spot permanently.
Skipper Jamaal Lascelles returned to full training this week although Saturday's game will come too soon for him while 18 year-old Geordie youngster Elliot Anderson could be in line for his first team debut after being on the bench at Crystal Palace and if so Newcastle fans are in for a treat as he has been an attacking prodigy throughout the youth ranks.
Paul Dummett will return to the fold as well with the Geordie defender speaking to NUFC TV this week and, after outlining a frustrating and difficult 12 months for him personally and revealing he was unavailable to train or play with NUFC after that Fulham comeback game in December after a household member tested positive for Corona Virus forcing him to isolate, he is dying to get out and play for the club he loves starting on Saturday:
"The manager wants to put out the strongest team he can on the day and every time he's played in the Cup...he's wanted to press on and do as well as we can in The Cup...
I'm fit, raring to go and feeling better than ever...these are the prime years of my career and I just want to repay the faith the manager has shown in me...For Newcastle to win a trophy with me would be extra special & I'm excited to see what we can do as a team."
Meanwhile, Arsenal's left back Kieran Tierney has been making waves on the pitch and off with Arsenal's most influential celebrity supporter Piers Morgan, whose disappearance and reappearance on social media is linked to Arsenal's form, his no.1 fan and former Arsenal player now pundit Martin Keown contrasting Tierney's work ethic and dedication with that of Germany's alienated superstar Mesut Ozil:
That was prior to Arteta's men winning three on the spin to catapult them from 15th spot to 11th after the partly-forced introduction of youngsters like Emile Smith-Rowe to the starting line-up who have flourished but Arsenal are still fragile on and off the pitch and there are weaknesses to the Gunners especially defensively to exploit & conceding an early goal would rock their confidence.
Star summer signing Thomas Partey could be available again to Arteta, who was keen to stress Arsenal would fighting to win every competition they are in, saying:
"We’re going to go after every competition. We are the holders we have to defend that title. We know what it means for the football club and the history that is related to the FA Cup. It’s a great competition to play for us."
Meanwhile his opposite number Steve Bruce said in his presser today that he will treat The FA Cup with "the respect it deserves" and Newcastle fans will be hoping he can guide the club to Wembley and win it as he did three times as a player with Manchester United and almost did as a Manager with Hull City in 2014. All to play for. HWTL.
Potential Line-Ups and Prediction - Arsenal 2 Newcastle 2 - NUFC Through on Penalties.