A fortnight on from that 2-0 win at Crystal Palace, it’s fair to say we’ve had a turbulent few weeks on Tyneside!
Covid cases went ‘well into double figures’, the training ground was shut down and our trip to Aston Villa cancelled, however football will finally return to our screens this Saturday as Slaven Bilic’s Baggies comes to town.
With a ‘big chunk’ of our squad still in self-isolation and set to miss out, it remains to be seen what sort of side Steve Bruce will be able to field.
Either way, you’d have to hope we can still be too good for a West Brom side who are not only without their best player (Mattheus Pereira), but second bottom of the table after conceding more goals than any other Premier League side so far this season (23).
They capitulated in last weekend’s 5-1 defeat at home to Crystal Palace and there’s talk of Bilic being sacked if he fails to win at St James’, so the pressure’s well and truly on the visitors ahead of their trip up to Tyneside.
With so many squad members said to have tested positive and so little coming out of the club, it’s probably best to start with those who look to be available!
Callum Wilson and Matt Ritchie have trained this week, with the former confirming as much on Instagram and the latter giving the game away in an interview with NUFC TV on Thursday.
Bruce also hinted in his presser that Joelinton is good to do as he tipped the Brazilian to kick on from where he left off two weeks ago, while Isaac Hayden is said to be one of the ‘two or three’ who missed the Palace game through Covid – meaning he should be out of self-isolation and ready to return.
The NUFC boss also said that a few ‘injured players’ are back, but named no names.
With that in mind, the likes of Allan Saint-Maximin, Ryan Fraser, Jamaal Lascelles, Dwight Gayle and Andy Carroll may just be available given they all sat out the Palace game with knocks.
For the visitors, their star man and impressive playmaker Mattheus Pereira is suspended after seeing red in that 5-1 defeat to Palace.
Predicted line up
(4-4-1-1?): ? – ?, ?, ?, Ritchie – ?, ?, Hayden, ? – Joelinton – Wilson.
Aside from the four mentioned above who seem *likely* to feature, it’s impossible to predict how we’ll line up.
The fact Joelinton and Wilson appear to be OK suggests it could be the same 4-4-1-1 formation that saw the pair link up well at Palace, however that may all depend on the options available to Bruce in midfield and defence.
One player to watch out for will be Elliot Anderson – the 18-year-old attacking midfielder who was named on the bench at Selhurst Park following some outstanding displays at U-23 level.
He could well be one of several youngsters involved in the matchday squad, especially when he wasn’t included in the second string side to play Stoke on Friday night.
Another one to watch is Dan Langley, the giant goalkeeper who also missed out on the U-23 squad – suggesting he too may be needed at senior level on Saturday!
Here’s a few ones to watch in Slaven Bilic’s Baggies side:
Conor Gallagher – The Chelsea loanee has a bit of everything. He’s someone I was really keen to see us sign over the summer, with him a tenacious, versatile, able to pick a pass and a good bet for a goal too. With Pereira missing, he’ll be the man to keep quiet here.
Sam Johnstone – The Baggies stopper is the only goalkeeper in the Premier League to have made more saves than Karl Darlow this season – which is worrying for them considering they’ve still conceded more than any other side! Hopefully he’s not in inspired form come 3pm Saturday.
Grady Diangana – West Ham fans were furious when they sold him to West Brom, with him one of the most exciting players in the Championship last season during an electric loan spell. He’s struggled so far this season and looks low on confidence, but he’s a box of tricks and match winner on his day.
Predicted West Brom XI: (5-3-2): Johnstone – Furlong, Ajayi, Ivanovic, Bartley, Phillips – Gallagher, Sawyers, Livermore – Grant, Robinson.
Again, it’s tough to call when we haven’t a clue what our starting 11 will look like.
The break may have done a few of our players some good, especially when West Brom are on the ropes and far from fresh after playing the last hour of last weekend’s hammering with 10 men.
They may be fancying themselves for a big win given how depleted we could be, but with Wilson fit and up against a side who’ve conceded 23 goals in 11 games, I see us having just about enough to make it back to back wins.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-1 West Brom