I usually dread the international break, but it was actually quite nice knowing that Newcastle United couldn’t find a way to ruin my week over the past fortnight.
One lingering frustration is the fact Bruce remains in charge. Any other club would’ve got rid and found a replacement over the break, but instead we have seen Mike Ashley show blind faith to a two wins in 20 manager who’s only stuck about to avoid missing out on his £4m pay-off.
Next up – Spurs. Jose Mourinho’s record at St James’ Park is pretty awful and his current team haven’t been much better at times over the past few months, but recent displays without our top scorer – who we’ll be without again – make you question if we have enough quality to beat them. I say that because we’re clearly lacking brains or a master plan on the sidelines!
If our dressing room is hungry to put things right and not stuck in hangover mode from the Brighton defeat or the fact Bruce is still in charge, then we might still have enough to get a big result against this Spurs side.
That said, our last game was supposed to be a six-pointer we were bang up for and look how that panned out!
The question is, will we see a side ready to get behind Steve Bruce now they know he’s going nowhere, or will we continue to fold like a side sleepwalking towards relegation?
- Allan Saint-Maximin – Bruce confirmed in his Friday presser that he’d trained all week and “could be involved” after recovering from a groin injury.
- Callum Wilson – Is behind ASM in his comeback from a hamstring injury and seems likely to miss out and return instead for next week’s trip to Burnley.
- Martin Dubravka – Missed two Slovakia games through illness and has just become a dad, however he’s expected to be fine for this one.
- Isaac Hayden – Ruled out for the season with a knee injury; however it’s good to hear he will NOT require surgery.
- Miguel Almiron – Bruce says the international break has allowed him to get back up to speed, with the Paraguayan clearly not 100% in that 3-0 defeat at Brighton last time out.
- Fabian Schar – Remains out with a knee injury as he continues his recovery from surgery.
For the visitors, star man Son Heung-min has recovered from a hamstring injury, left-back Sergio Reguilon has been passed fit, while Matt Doherty and Ben Davies have been ruled out. Not the news we wanted to hear, meaning their left-side will be back to full strength for this one!
(4-3-1-2): Dubravka – Manquillo, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett – Hendrick, Shelvey, Willock – Almiron – Saint-Maximin, Fraser.
Hendrick IN, Hayden OUT? – It’s not the swap we want to see, but Bruce somehow seems to have Hendrick ahead of the two Longstaff’s in the midfield pecking order. Personally, I’d bring Sean Longstaff back in, however he’s played just 14 minutes over the past two months!
Saint-Maximin IN, Joelinton OUT? – It remains to be seen if ASM will be fit enough to start, but with this one looking set to come too soon for Wilson, Bruce will need the Frenchman’s spark to beat Spurs. Not only that, we need to change things up after that dismal display at Brighton – a game that saw our £40m Brazilian have a stinker. A front three of Fraser, Almiron and ASM would see us go without a recognised striker once again, but their blend of pace, creativity and explosiveness might just hurt a Mourinho side that don’t like to be ran at.
Elsewhere, Federico Fernandez may just earn a recall if Bruce decides to switch up the defence, while Jacob Murphy, Andy Carroll and Dwight Gayle will be hoping for rare starts after failing to make the XI that failed to turn up at The Amex almost two weeks ago.
Had Wilson been fit, we’d have received a boost big enough to make many believe we might just pick up a surprise result.
Saint-Maximin’s return could lift our spirts and give us that match winning maverick that’s been missing over the past month, but the loss of Hayden will be a big blow in the middle of the park – especially if Bruce opts to replace him with Mr Anonymous Jeff Hendrick.
Not only that, Son Heung-min has been passed fit and could have a field day if we defend as we did at Brighton last weekend – and that’s not even factoring in the goal machine that is Harry Kane!
A reaction to that pathetic display at Brighton would be nice – especially when we may need to pick up points from games like this to survive – however I’m expecting very little when Wilson won’t be around to save Bruce’s bacon.
Let’s hope they prove me wrong and this is the start of an unlikely turnaround that saves us from slipping into the second tier.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham