After playing five of the league’s ‘big six’ in our opening nine games, we now enter a run of fixtures that could well define our season.
First up on Sunday is Wolves – last season’s 7th place side who’ve recovered from a poor start by going unbeaten in their last seven games.
That said, they arrive on Tyneside just 48 hours after a Europa League trip to Slovakia, which saw most of their first team stars play the full 90 in a late comeback win over Slovan Bratislava.
This however is the same side that won at Man City in their last away outing in the league, so we’ll have to be every bit as good as we were against Man Utd to beat them.
Win and it’ll be considered a decent start to the season given the fixtures we’ve faced, however things must start clicking in the final third if we’re to come away with all three points here.
With the pressure intensifying on misfiring duo Joelinton and Almiron, it’ll be interesting to see what Bruce goes with here.
For me it’s the approach that has to change and not the personnel, however the NUFC boss has been speaking highly of Dwight Gayle all week. I have my doubts as to whether he’s match fit enough to start after an injury-ravaged pre-season, but would not be surprised if he’s named in the starting 11 come 1pm on Sunday.
As for Joelinton, yes he’s been poor and has cut a frustrated figure up top, but a striker (who’s still not used to playing up front never mind in the Premier League) relies on chances – and the service and support up to him has been bordering on non existent. With that in mind, it’s time we got bodies around him on Sunday to give him a much needed helping hand.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Atsu came in for Almiron, yet Bruce seems adamant the latter will come good eventually.
With Schar injured, one of Dummett or Fernandez will almost certainly start should we stick with the same formation – although we may revert to four at the back if Gayle is to partner Joelinton up top.
Preferred NUFC XI – (3-4-2-1) – Dubravka – Fernandez, Lascelles, Dummett – Yedlin, M.Longstaff, S.Longstaff, Willems – Atsu, Saint-Maximin – Joelinton.
Here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in Nuno’s Wolves side:
Raul Jimenez – The Mexican striker completed a £30m move this summer after bagging an outstanding 17 goals and 8 assists during his spell on loan from Benfica last season. He’s surprisingly mobile for his size and a real handful with an eye for goal.
Adama Traore – If he continues down Wolves’ right-hand side and Allan Saint-Maximin starts down our left, this could be one hell of a battle between two incredible dribblers with bundles of pace. Traore’s final product has often been criticised, but with two well taken goals at City in their last away game in the league, he’s someone Willems could struggle to contain.
Ruben Neves – The Portuguese international is a classy operator in the middle who’s deadly from free kicks. Both Matty and Sean will have their hands full against both him and Moutinho.
Predicted Wolves XI (3-5-2) – Patricio – Saiss, Coady, Boly – Traore, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny – Jimenez, Jota.
Both Andy Carroll (groin) and Fabian Schar (knee) have been ruled out, with the game also coming too soon once again for Matt Ritchie (ankle) and Florian Lejeune (knee) – despite both being spotted back in training this week.
Isaac Hayden is out again as he completes a three-match ban, however Dwight Gayle is in contention to start for the first time since May 2018.
Wolves centre-back Ryan Bennett is expected to miss out with a groin injury, but it remains to be seen if Nuno will make many changes after several key players started in their Europa League tie in Slovakia on Thursday night.
I haven’t got a good feeling about this one.
On paper our attack could cause Wolves problems, but we’ve created a worrying lack of chances so far this season and must get better service and more bodies up to Joelinton if we’re to carry a more consistent threat.
Schar’s absence will be felt from a creative and defensive point of view, so it’ll be key that Yedlin and Willems get the balance right at both ends – especially when Wolves are known for their attacking wing-backs.
I’m hopeful based on the fact Wolves arrive on the back of a tough game in Europe, but my head says they’ll get the better of us should we continue to look toothless in the final third.
Here’s hoping that changes and we come away with another much needed win at St James’ Park!
Prediction: Newcastle 1-1 Wolves
Howay the lads!