Another week, another game where we’ll be fancying our chances, with us up against a Burnley side who’ve been uncharacteristically inconsistent this season.
That said, it looks like we’ll have to do it without a few key players, with Saint-Maximin ruled out of the festive period, man of the moment Jonjo Shelvey set to miss out with a calf knock and Miguel Almiron’s ‘tight hamstring’ meaning he’s unlikely to be risked.
I had a bad feeling about the Southampton game, but Bruce’s battlers proved me wrong with a brilliant second half comeback.
Here’s hoping they can dig deep once again here in difficult circumstances and bring another good result back to Tyneside.
With Lascelles and Ritchie still missing, ASM out and Shelvey and Almiron unlikely to be risked, Steve Bruce will be forced into making several changes here.
‘Joelinton out wide?’ you may ask – but Bruce dropped another clear hint in his presser that the Brazilian may be used in a new role.
Not only is Carroll impressing up top, ASM and Almiron’s absence mean we’re woefully short in wide areas, so it seems highly likely that he and Atsu play either side of big Andy.
Gayle is an option, but where does he fit? He’s not a winger but isn’t a loan striker in this system?
In midfield, Shelvey surely won’t be risked – no matter how well he’s playing. Just look what happened to Saint-Maximin when Bruce last took a chance on someone’s fitness. With that in mind, a well rested and raring to go Sean Longstaff will likely come in to partner Isaac Hayden.
In defence, Willems’ sluggish performance vs Southampton suggested he may need a rest, but with Ritchie still out we don’t have an alternative. Bruce may be tempted to bring Yedlin back in and hand Manquillo a break, but the Spaniard’s solid displays in recent weeks mean he should keep his place unless he’s fatigued or carrying a knock.
With Clark and Lascelles ruled out, it seems fairly straight forward who Bruce will start at centre-back. Schar on the right-hand side, Fernandez in the centre and Dummett on the left, with Lejeune set to be on the bench for the first time this season?
Preferred NUFC XI – (4-4-2) – Dubravka – Manquillo, Schar, Fernandez, Dummett – Atsu, Hayden, S.Longstaff, Willems – Carroll, Joelinton.
Here’s a few key men to watch out for in Sean Dyche’s side:
Dwight McNeil – A player we’ve been linked with both over the summer and this week (if you believe The Guardian) and one who could really hurt us if we allow him space to get good balls into the box. Burnley’s big strikers rely on good service, and McNeil’s delivery from open play and set pieces is immaculate.
Ashley Barnes – A big unit and old fashioned centre forward who’ll back in and give you a real battle. Jamaal Lascelles normally gets the better of most Premier League strikers from a physical perspective, but I remember him struggling against Barnes when we played them last season.
Chris Wood – The former Leeds striker is another big striker who’s dangerous in the air, but his finishing is also underrated, with him getting into double figures in each of his last two seasons and starting this one with 6 goals in 14 so far.
Predicted Burnley XI (4-4-2): Pope – Lotwon, Tarkowski, Mee, Pieters – Brady, Cork, Westwood, McNeil – Barnes, Wood.
Where to start!
Saint-Maximin will miss out with a hamstring injury, Shelvey (calf) and Almiron (hamstring) seem unlikely to be risked, while Bruce has also confirmed that Clark and Ki won’t be fit for this one.
Lascelles (knee) and Ritchie (ankle) remain sidelined until the new year, however Florian Lejeune is set to return to our 18-man squad for the first time since rupturing his ACL in April.
Burnley have a few injury doubts of their own. Dychye is ‘hopeful’ Ashley Barnes, Jay Rodriguez, Ashley Westwood and Phil Bardsley will return, but Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Kevin Long and Charlie Taylor are all out.
There’s been no in between with Burnley this season.
They lost 5-0 at Spurs last week, shipped 4 against Man City in their last home game and were hammered 3-0 by Sheffield Utd not so long ago, yet their last two wins have been convincing 3-0 victories, suggesting they either concede 3, 4 or 5 or win comfortably with a clean sheet.
Recently we’ve been doing quite the opposite and building some consistency, however the core of that side looks set to be broken up ahead of this one, meaning Bruce and his fringe players will have to step up here.
Burnley need to get back on track and may be smelling blood with our injury issues in mind.
I want to say we’ll take a point, but think we’ll come unstuck here.
Prediction: Burnley 2-1 Newcastle
Howay the lads!