Predicted NUFC team to start vs West Ham – PL debut & trio to start despite small pre-season?

The Premier League season is upon us. It’s been a frustrating summer, but the arrival of Joe Willock has given us a twinge of excitement as a fan base.

Our opening game will be at St James’ Park against West Ham United. It will be great to see a bigger crowd at home, even if there are doubts if it will be a sell out..

Below I discuss our predicted starting eleven for the match on Sunday:

Freddie Woodman – It has been confirmed by Steve Bruce that Freddie Woodman will start the season with the gloves. Martin Dubravka has an injury, while Karl Darlow is still recovering from Covid. It is a huge chance for the young goalkeeper,  but he should be ready following two good seasons in the Championship. No keeper kept more clean sheets in the second tier last season.

Jacob Murphy – There is hope that it can be another season of progression for the boyhood Newcastle fan. He has signed a long term extension, which is a positive for the club. He will be given a license to get forward down the right flank and will be one of our main creative outlets on Sunday.

Federico Fernandez – Another player to agree a new contract will start alongside Murphy. The Argentine has been reliable for us since joining a few years ago. There are doubts about his lack of pace, but he is a great organiser and still good enough to do well in the top flight.

Jamaal Lascelles – His career has stalled somewhat in the last two seasons, but he is fit to start the season. This is a great opportunity for him to kickstart his career and his leadership is key to the squad. His pace and physicality are key, as no other defender has similar traits.

Ciaran Clark – Towards the end of last season, Clark dropped out of the team. It was a good decision, as he was unsuited to playing as the middle centre back. He will likely start the season on the left, which is better for him. Clark needs to start the season well to keep his place in the eleven.

Matt Ritchie – Another season begins and Matt Ritchie will start the first match. It is likely that Jamal Lewis will come into the team at some point, but Ritchie deserves to start on Sunday. His battling qualities and set piece delivery could be key. 

Jonjo Shelvey – Steve Bruce has spoken about Shelvey’s importance, so he will likely start. This is despite struggling for fitness during pre season. His long passing will be crucial this season, as we look to play more on the counter attack. Towards the end of last season, we did see a steady improvement in his performances.

Isaac Hayden – Hayden is one of the few who needs to start the season well to ensure his place in the team. His tackling and work rate do mesh well with Shelvey, but there is a feeling that the defensive midfielder slows us down in transition. With Joe Willock joining and a further addition in midfield possible, Hayden needs to start well. 

Miguel Almiron – This is one of the tougher calls for Bruce. He may choose to start Ryan Fraser, who has been getting goals and assists in pre-season. The Scottish international will be more up to speed, but Bruce has spoken about Almiron being one of the fittest players in the squad. He may come straight in to the team.

Allan Saint-Maximin – Bruce may opt for Joelinton alongside Wilson, but Saint-Maximin will be keen to play well in front of fans. He hasn’t had many opportunities to play in front of a full St James’ Park and he will thrive on that. He has been exciting to watch since joining, but he needs a breakthrough season. It could arrive in 2021/22.

Callum Wilson – It is great news that Wilson will be fit to start the season. He has scored eight goals in ten matches against West Ham. They are his favourite opponent, so he will be looking to start the season in good form. Last season, he scored against them on opening day.

(5-3-2): Dubravka – Murphy, Fernandez, Lascelles, Clark, Ritchie – Shelvey (c), Hayden, Almiron – Saint-Maximin, Wilson.

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