Another tough game for Newcastle United this weekend, with the bookmakers at uni-bonus-code.co.uk are tipping Wolves for a win at our expense. It’s also another chance for Steve Bruce to try and prove his doubters wrong.
I must admit, I am very much in the camp that’s questioned his approach (or lack of it!) so far this season, feeling any excuses no longer wash now he’s got a team more than capable of threatening the top 10 this season.
After the late collapse and passive performance against a Man Utd side we should’ve jumped all over last weekend, we now face a Wolves side who are looking to make it three wins on the bounce in the Premier League.
They’ve only scored three goals in their last four league games, but they don’t give much away at the back, are strong in midfield and have the pace and quality to hurt us in attack.
We’ll have to be at it in all areas of the pitch to come away with a good result come 6pm Sunday.
Jonjo Shelvey has been ruled out with an ongoing groin injury, with it emerging on Saturday night that he looks set for a few weeks on the sidelines.
Steve Bruce has also confirmed that Karl Darlow and Isaac Hayden will face late fitness tests after picking up knocks last weekend, meaning we could well see Mark Gillespie make his Premier League debut if the former misses out.
Sean Longstaff is available after overcoming tonsillitis, Paul Dummett and Ciaran Clark could return to the squad after featuring for the U-23’s on Monday, but the game will come too soon for Matty Longstaff – who played in the second string’s 1-0 defeat to West Brom on Friday.
Elsewhere, Martin Dubravka, Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle are long-term absentees and remain out.
Predicted line up
Predicted NUFC XI (4-4-1-1): Darlow – Manquillo, Lascelles, Fernandez, Lewis – Fraser, Hendrick, Hayden, Saint-Maximin – Almiron – Wilson.
Darlow has been described as ’50/50′ by Steve Bruce for this one, but because it’s bruising and not a muscle injury, I can see him declaring himself fit to play.
At the back, Lascelles and Fernandez should continue as our first-choice pairing in the middle, with Lewis down the left, but I can see Manquillo coming back in.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Bruce stuck with Krafth, but the Swede struggled badly against Man Utd. Manquillo is quicker and better equipped to deal with Wolves’ pace, not to mention the fact he’s established himself as our best right-back over the past 18 months.
Hayden was forced off last Saturday, but the fact it was cramp and not a strain means he’s likely to join Darlow in passing a late test.
If he makes it, he won’t be partnered by Jonjo Shelvey, however, with the midfielder ruled out with a groin injury, meaning Hendrick seems likely to keep his place – unless Sean Longstaff is recalled after overcoming tonsillitis.
Then to the interesting bit and the one area of the pitch Steve Bruce is under pressure to get right this weekend – the front four.
I’m quite certain Almiron will receive a recall and start, and think it’s about time Bruce also threw a fit-again Fraser into his side, meaning both Joelinton and Hendrick could drop out.
So, Almiron in the No 10 role, with Saint-Maximin down one side, Fraser on the other and Callum Wilson up top. For me, that’s probably our best attack when everyone’s fit, but will Bruce be brave enough to finally go with it? Let’s hope so!
Here’s a few ones to watch in Nuno Esparito Santo’s side:
Raul Jimenez – The Mexican is Wolves’ talisman and the man they’ve turned to for goals over the past few years. He’s pretty elusive, surprisingly mobile for his size and a brilliant all round striker who’ll get the better of Lascelles or Fernandez if they have an off day!
Max Kilman – The young English centre-back has enjoyed a brilliant rise through the ranks and has grabbed his chance in their side with both hands, helping them to clean sheets in each of his two starts this season. Let’s hope he doesn’t make it three in a row on Sunday!
Adama Traore – Portuguese playmaker Podence has taken his place in their attack at times this season, however I can see Nuno bringing Traore back into his side for this one – and he’ll have a point to prove if so. Jamal Lewis could have his hands full, with the Spaniard possessing an incredible blend of pace, power and destructive dribbling. It could be some battle down that side of the pitch if both Traore and ASM start!
Predicted Wolves XI: (3-4-3): Patricio – Boly, Coady, Kilman – Semedo, Moutinho, Neves, Saiss – Traore, Jimenez, Neto.
Wolves haven’t looked particularly potent in attack whenever I’ve watched them this season – scoring 3 in their last 4 – however they don’t give you much at the other end.
I think we’ll score, especially if we start the exciting front four I’m backing Bruce to finally go with, however we’re conceding too many shots and looking anything but solid defensively these days, so the challenge will be finding that balance against a side who often have exactly that.
The last time we came up against a 3-4-3 system (0-3 vs Brighton) Steve Bruce got it horribly wrong and we were overran in all areas. I don’t see this one being a massacre and expect a tight game, but think they’ll get the better of us, sadly.
Prediction: Wolves 2-1 Newcastle