Just another quiet week at Newcastle United, then…
We’ve started 2022 with one almighty bang; and we’ve not even kicked a ball yet!
With Kieran Trippier signed – an outstanding coup who will bring quality, leadership and high standards back to the club – and us making bids for Sven Botman (Lille), Diego Carlos (Sevilla) and Lucas Digne (Everton) in an attempt to bolster our leaky back line, it’s fair to say our new owners aren’t messing about in what promises to be one of the biggest transfer windows in the club’s history.
Back to matters on the pitch, it’s easy to forget we actually have a game this weekend, as Cambridge United come to town for an FA Cup third round clash at St James’ Park.
Premier League survival may be our priority this season, but Eddie Howe vowed to take the FA Cup seriously, being aware of our long wait for a trophy and the momentum a good cup run can create in and around the club.
Not only that, the game is a sell out, seeing the visitors – who are currently 16th in League One – filling their 5,000 allocation for our first home game of 2022.
We may be forced to field a weakened side, given Covid and injuries continue to impact our squad, however it promises to be another special atmosphere at St James’ Park; where fans could get a glimpse of Kieran Trippier for the very first time after he was given clearance to play.
Kieran Trippier has been cleared to play following his £12m move from Atletico Madrid on Friday, but it remains to be seen if he’ll start or not.
Callum Wilson has been ruled out after picking up a calf injury in that 1-1 draw with Man Utd and Howe has also confirmed that Covid will also keep a few unnamed players out.
Both Jamal Lewis (hamstring) and Federico Fernandez (thigh) also remain sidelined, while Isaac Hayden has joined them on the treatment table; being ruled out for ’10 weeks’ after undergoing knee surgery.
Predicted line ups
(4-2-3-1): Woodman – Manquillo, Lascelles, Clark, Ritchie – Hendrick, Willock – Murphy, Anderson, Almiron – Gayle.
Starting in goal, I can see Woodman getting a chance after a real lack of game time since both Dubravka and Darlow returned.
In defence, I’d imagine this one comes too soon for Trippier to come in from the start, with him barely having a chance to train with his new teammates.
Manquillo should play given the fact he’ll be suspended (five yellow cards) for next weekend’s must-win clash with Watford, while a centre-back pairing of Lascelles and Clark seems likely given Fernandez is injured and Schar took a heavy knock late in last month’s 1-1 draw with Man Utd.
Ritchie should return at left-back if available, but he wasn’t involved in the squad in our last outing, meaning it could be Manquillo and Krafth at full-back once again (Lewis still injured and Trippier unlikely to start).
This could’ve been an ideal time to give Dummett his first minutes of the season after his return to training last month, but it remains to be seen if he’s able to feature after eight months since his last appearance!
In midfield, Hendrick could make his first appearance under Howe – saving Shelvey for Watford – and start alongside Willock; who could target this game as the ideal opportunity to gain a much needed confidence boost and first goal since he signed permanently.
Out wide, Murphy and Almiron could be thrown in from the off after dangerous cameos against Man Utd, while top young talent Elliot Anderson may be handed the chance to play in his preferred position as a No 10.
Up top, it may have to be Dwight Gayle. As things stand, he’s our only fit striker and may need a game to find some match sharpness just in case he’s needed next weekend!
I fancy us to not only win, but win in style in this one!
Performances have deserved more in recent games, it’s a sell out crowd, fringe players will be eager to impress and a few of our top youngsters may also be given a chance to show what they can do.
All of that makes me believe we’ll put a few past the League One side here and come away comfortable winners.
Gayle to score a couple in a home win for Eddie Howe’s Mags!
Prediction: Newcastle 4-1 Cambridge
HOWAY THE LADS!