After a shorter pre-season than usual, Newcastle United are finally back!
Steve Bruce has been busy during the break, signing five new faces. The Magpies boss welcomes ex-Bournemouth duo Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser to his squad, while Jeff Hendrick, Jamal Lewis and Mark Gillespie have also arrived.
West Ham – our opening day opponents – have had a challenging pre-season, to say the least. Their own captain Mark Noble called the board out on the sale of Grady Diangana. Meanwhile, their only signing has been the permanent capture of last season’s loan star Tomas Soucek.
With all of these fresh options at Bruce’s disposal, who goes into the starting lineup for the opening day fixture against West Ham?
The excellent Martin Dubravka missing – chance for Karl Darlow?
Our No.1 glovesman is unfortunately still injured. Dubravka kept an impressive 11 clean sheets last term, the fourth-highest amount in the Premier League.
He is still struggling with a heel issue, however. This means there should be a rare Premier League chance for Karl Darlow. The 29-year-old ex-Nottingham Forest shot-stopper made zero league outings last term, so he will be keen to impress.
Back three of Federico Fernandez, Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark?
Sadly, Fabian Schar is still missing with a shoulder injury. However, good news! Jamaal Lascelles was having some ankle problems during the off-season, but he has revealed that the injury has healed well.
As a result of this, a back three of Federico Fernandez, Lascelles and Ciaran Clark is expected.
New boy Jamal Lewis is likely to make his debut at left-back having got game-time under his belt for Northern Ireland recently. On the other side, Javier Manquillo – Bruce’s most-used right-back last term – should start.
Debuts for Wilson, Fraser and Hendrick?
Probably not, to be honest. We can see Wilson starting, but it is unlikely that Fraser will play seeing as he rejected Bournemouth’s short-term contract offer and hasn’t played since June.
In our opinion, Bruce will choose Isaac Hayden over Hendrick for now. Last term frequently saw only two centre-midfielders used, and The Chronicle wrote that our boss would like Jonjo Shelvey to start. The ex-Liverpool man should be ‘OK’ according to Bruce.
The flamboyant Allan Saint-Maximin should line up on the right with Miguel Almiron on the left.
Predicted lineup: Darlow; Manquillo, Fernandez, Lascelles, Clark, Lewis; Shelvey, Hayden; Almiron, Saint-Maximin; Wilson.