How things have changed over the past month and a half.
We signed brilliantly well last week, bringing in players with proven quality at Premier League level, and followed that up with back to back wins in league and cup against West Ham and Blackburn respectively.
Our performance in the latter was awful – albeit it via wholesale changes and a side full of right-backs, fringe men or new signings building back to full fitness – however we were brilliant at West Ham and things couldn’t have gone better so far for our five new signings, with Wilson, Hendrick and Fraser all scoring on their debuts and Gillsepie and Lewis banking clean sheets.
Next up, a Brighton side who’ve tended to frustrate us in recent years.
Believe it or not, we’ve scored ONCE in our six meetings with Brighton since we were both promoted back to the Premier League in the summer of 2017.
I remember them coming to Tyneside last season and having about 70% of the ball. They played us off the park in just about every single department, but couldn’t apply that killer touch in the final third.
Hopefully it’s a very different game this time around and it’s our new-look attack that can do damage this time around to end our streak of not scoring against the stubborn Seagulls at St James’ Park!
Thankfully, Bruce has confirmed that Saint-Maximin is ‘fine’ despite limping off in midweek after twisting his knee late on against Blackburn.
That said, the gaffer has named FIVE others who’ll remain sidelined for Sunday’s visit of Brighton, with this one set to come too soon for Paul Dummett, Matty Longstaff, Fabian Schar, Martin Dubravka and Dwight Gayle.
Predicted line up
Predicted NUFC XI (4-4-2): Darlow – Manquillo, Lascelles, Fernandez, Lewis – Hendrick, Hayden, Shelvey, Saint-Maximin – Carroll, Wilson.
With Bruce confirming that we’ve picked up no new injuries, I struggle to see us making any changes from the side that won so well at West Ham.
We looked strong at the back, won the midfield battle via solid displays from Hayden and Shelvey and a constant threat in attack, with Saint-Maximin and Hendrick both elusive, Carroll a constant handful and Wilson’s movement causing all sorts of problems.
Ryan Fraser will be in our best 11 before long, but with him still building up his match fitness and tiring early on Tuesday, it’s fair to say he’s still a week or two away from starting.
Joelinton didn’t impress on Tuesday and looked leggy after next to no pre-season, however Miguel Almiron was one of the highlights in an otherwise dull affair and will be pushing for a start after two assists in two and a sublime ball to set up Fraser’s winner.
That said, I Bruce sticking with Carroll and Wilson, meaning the electric Paraguayan may have to settle for another cameo appearance from the bench.
Ciaran Clark was arguably our best player in midweek and barely put a foot wrong, however I don’t see Lascelles and Fernandez’s partnership being broken up anytime soon.
Here’s a few ones to watch in Graham Potters’ Seagulls side:
Tariq Lamptey – The former Chelsea right-back burst onto the season after lockdown and looks a serious talent. Has bags of pace and energy, bombs forward and isn’t shy in the tackle. It’ll be VERY interesting to see who wins the battle between him and Saint-Maximin on Sunday!
Ben White – Another new name in this Brighton side, but a big talent who looked like a Rolls Royce of a centre-back during his outstanding loan spell at Leeds last season. Carries the ball out of defence well, can pick a pass and reads the game very well too. How he copes with Wilson’s movement and Carroll’s aerial prowess will be one to watch!
Adam Lallana – A shrewd free agent signing from Liverpool who should start here if he passes a late fitness test. He’ll bring that experience and quality in the final third that Brighton have often lacked in recent seasons.
Yves Bissouma – He’s not talked about much, but he looks a player with real potential. A holding midfielder and breaker up of play, however he’s also quite explosive, possessing the ability to dribble past a man and fire a stinging shot on goal from range.
Predicted Brighton XI (3-5-2): Ryan – White, Webster, Dunk (c) – Lamptey, Lallana, Bissouma, Alzate, March – Trossard, Maupay.
I’ve seen quite a few back Brighton to go down this season, however they’re a good footballing side who we’ve struggled to get to grips with in recent meetings – and the emergence of Lamptey and White combined with Lallana’s arrival should only improve them.
That said, we arrive into this one full of confidence and on the back of two wins, so there’s no reason why we can’t make it three is ASM is on song, Wilson has his shooting boots on and Carroll can repeat the dominant display he put in at West Ham!
For once, I think there’ll be more than one goal in this one, however I can see it ending all square.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-1 Brighton