Eddie Howe facing three selection dilemmas ahead of Nottingham Forest clash

With the new season edging ever closer, it’s time to forget transfers for a second and look at the starting 11 Eddie Howe could select at St James’ Park this Saturday.

Newly-promoted Nottingham Forest arrive full of excitement, bidding to paint the town red after 23 years away from the top flight, but we’ll be looking to build on our brilliant form so far in 2022 in front of a packed out crowd on Tyneside.

Most of the team picks itself based on what we’ve seen over pre-season, however there appears to be THREE selection dilemmas for Howe to consider as we near edge closer to the big kick-off.

Nick Pope or Martin Dubravka?

In goal, it’s fair to say Nick Pope hasn’t signed to sit on the bench in the middle of a World Cup year, but Martin Dubravka has done very little wrong over the past few months.

I expect the former Burnley man to end the season in between the sticks, however he recently admitted that he was given “no assurances” from Howe; who appears determined to have two quality players battling it out in each position.

That said, I do think Pope will come straight in, as it speaks volumes – no matter how solid Dubravka may be – that we felt the need to sign another quality goalkeeper this summer.

Who partners big Sven at the back?

Some wonder if he’ll ease Botman in, knowing Burn and Schar play so well together – as they proved once again in Friday’s 1-0 win over Atalanta – but I personally feel there’s no way our new £35m centre-back doesn’t start.

He looked top class against Bilbao and has been with the group for a few weeks now, so he looks ready to go for me.

The dilemma here is the left-footed Dutchman would need to start on the right if Burn keeps his place. He is good with both feet, however I can’t see his first Premier League start being on his ‘weak’ side, meaning Schar and Botman could be the ball-playing pair Howe opts with against Forest – who are backed to lose this one by midnite.com.

Joe Willock or Sean Longstaff in Jonjo Shelvey’s absence?

In midfield, Sean Longstaff can be more of a like-for-like replacement for Shelvey, as he played in that deep-lying role when he first broke onto the scene under Benitez and grew into the friendly win over Atalanta in this position.

However, in a game we should be attacking against a newly-promoted Forest still working out its best starting 11 after so many new signings, I can see Howe starting Willock, Guimaraes and Joelinton.

It’s a fluid, mobile and attacking trio that caused Bilbao havoc in that first half last Saturday, with Bruno more than capable of operating in that deeper role based on his rare blend of tenacity and technical ability.

How do you see us lining up on Saturday? Is there any other selection dilemmas we’ve missed out? Here’s the 11 we expect to start:

(4-3-3): Pope – Trippier, Schar, Botman, Targett – Willock, Guimaraes, Joelinton – Almiron, Wilson, Saint-Maximin.

About Olly Hawkins

Olly has been a Junior Magpie from birth. As a season ticket holder and avid Newcastle United fan, he eats, sleeps and breathes all things NUFC!

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