Stoke City: Newcastle suffer bout of Euro blues
NEWCASTLE have collected just seven points from a possible 21 in their seven Premier League fixtures following immediately after Europa League ties.
This time last year Stoke were being thumped at the likes of Sunderland, Swansea and Bolton after returning to league action following excursions abroad.
So there might be some understanding, if little sympathy, at Newcastle's dramatic demise to 14th in the table ahead of tonight's clash at the Britannia Stadium.
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It's all a far cry from flirting with the Champions League last season before settling for fifth and Europe's lesser competition.
"We got hit with a lot of long-distance travel," recalls Stoke's assistant manager Dave Kemp.
"I don't think Newcastle have had it so bad as that, but it is difficult coming back to play on the Sunday.
"We had some below-par performances after coming back from the Europa League, so we know how difficult it can be.
"But in saying that, Newcastle have had a league game since their last Europa League game and I'm sure they will be well prepared for us."
He acknowledged Newcastle's hat-trick of league losses going into tonight's fixture, but insisted there was much truth in the old maxim about form being temporary and class permanent.
"Newcastle will be a stiff test for us," he asserted. "They beat us twice last year and we've got to be on our mettle to beat them here.
"It's just a temporary blip they are going through. All teams have them, even those who go on to win the league.
"Form is temporary, so we have to prepare for Newcastle at their best.
"Anybody with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse up front will be a test."
Ba notched a hat-trick at the Britannia last season, some recompense for the free-scoring striker after Stoke pulled out of a £7m deal for him on medical grounds nearly two years ago.
"It hurts if anybody scores against you," said Kemp, "but we're not surprised by how well he's done.
"We wanted him doing that here, but that deal didn't work out.
"However, we still respect his ability."
Ba goes into this evening's game in fair goalscoring nick after eight in 14 appearances following a barren spell earlier in the year.
But Cisse, one of last season's revelations after bagging 13 in 14 games following his January arrival, has been a positive failure in front of goal by comparison this season after scoring only three in 16 appearances.