After the two and a half month break from competitive action, Premier League football is finally back at St James’ Park!
With newly-promoted Nottingham Forest first up, it’s time to predict which side Eddie Howe will go with for our opening game of the 2022/23 season.
Keeping pre-season and current availability in mind, here’s the starting 11 we’re backing the boss to select come 3pm today:
(4-3-3): Pope – Trippier, Schar, Botman, Targett – Guimaraes, S Longstaff, Joelinton – Almiron, Wilson, Saint-Maximin.
For me, Eddie Howe is facing these three dilemmas:
- Pope or Dubravka?
- Who starts at CB?
- Willock or Sean Longstaff?
Personally, I back new signings Pope and Botman to both make their first competitive starts for the club. It would be harsh on Dubravka and Burn – neither have barely put a foot wrong – but the England stopper didn’t sign in the midst of a World Cup year to sit on the bench and Botman looks too good to ease in.
As Burn is left-sided and Botman has so little experience of playing on the right, it seems logical for Howe to go with Schar alongside our new £35m centre-back.
In the middle of the park, I’d like Joe Willock to play. I believe a midfield three of him, Bruno and big Joe would be attacking, mobile and capable of causing havoc against Forest. However, Howe stressed in Friday’s presser that Sean Longstaff has a “big part to play” and may consider him to be a more natural replacement for Shelvey after performing well in a deep-lying role against Atalanta.
How do you see us lining up, folks? Let us know in the comments below!