After the 3-1 defeat at Brighton and an unwanted international break, Newcastle return to Premier League action this weekend with the visit of Brentford to St James’ Park.
Keeping in mind recent injuries, form, next week’s trip to AC Milan and the players Eddie Howe has been able to work with over the break, I think we’ll see four changes on Saturday, seeing Callum Wilson, Harvey Barnes, Sean Longstaff and Sven Botman all come in.
The first player I’m backing to start – for the first time this season, believe it or not – is Callum Wilson. He was the only player to come away from the Amex with any credit, has scored twice in 96 minutes so far and was our top marksman last term with 18 goals. He had one late cameo for England over the break, where as Isak started twice for Sweden, playing 145 minutes over the space of four days.
Howe may find a way to start both, but I think Isak could be saved for next week’s Champions League clash with AC Milan.
Harvey Barnes is another who’s yet to start this season, but with a goal and an assist on his debut and plenty of time to work with Howe while others were away on international duty, I think he’ll come in. Anthony Gordon is in the same boat, so I see him moving to the right, replacing Miguel Almiron.
Miggy was playing for Paraguay in the early hours of Wednesday morning, played 174 minutes across their two World Cup qualifiers and was suffering with some bad cramp at the end of their 0-0 draw with Peru. Almiron’s fitness levels often allow him to go again after little recovery time, but with the hectic schedule to come (7 games in 23 days), Gordon’s ability to play down the right and his late return from South America after starting twice and suffering with cramp, I think Howe will mix it up.
Next up, I think Sean Longstaff will return to our engine room. Sandro Tonali had been arguably our top performing midfielder so far this season, but he withdrew from Italy’s 2-1 win over Ukraine with a ‘muscle injury’, so it may be wise to save him for his return to the San Siro next Tuesday, as we know a fit-again Longstaff is a reliably performer who brings balance, legs and all-important dirty work to our midfield. Longstaff could play as our right-sided number eight or even as the holding number six, allowing Bruno to play further forward.
At the back, I expect Sven Botman to return. He posted a ‘back soon’ message at the beginning of last week, so I’m quietly confident he’ll be passed fit to play when Howe speaks to the press on Friday morning. If so, I’d expect Matt Targett to drop out and Dan Burn to return at left-back; unless Lewis Hall has got himself up to speed and in a position to play.
It won’t be long until Hall comes into the side – especially in winnable home games we need to attack – but this might be a week too soon after below-par fitness levels meant he failed to feature in our previous two games.