Newcastle United get their Premier League campaign underway with a home game against West Ham United.
For the first time since February 2020, St James’ Park will be able to welcome 52,000 fans.
It will be an emotional day for a lot of people who are yet to attend a game since the pandemic began, and it is also a great opportunity for Newcastle to start the season with a win.
The Magpies beat West Ham on the opening day last year, but who will Steve Bruce pick this time? This is our predicted Newcastle XI to face the Hammers.
Premier League debut for Woodman
Bruce has already confirmed one man who will start – Freddie Woodman.
With Martin Dubravka injured and Karl Darlow still recovering from COVID, Woodman is set to make his Premier League debut.
He has spent the last two seasons on loan at Swansea and excelled, and deserves his chance in the top flight.
If he performs, he could possibly make the position his own until the return of Dubravka.
Pressure on Murphy and Ritchie
It seems certain that Newcastle will use the 3-5-2 formation that they ended last season with.
And in that system, Jacob Murphy and Matt Ritchie were pivotal. They gave us extra bodies out wide, and their crossing ability created an abundance of chances.
There will be pressure on both players to deliver once again. Ritchie will be well aware that £15milllion Jamal Lewis is waiting in the wings, while Murphy has the added pressure of playing in a position that is still relatively new to him.
Predicted chance for Sean Longstaff
It’s difficult to predict who will start in midfield for the Magpies.
Providing he’s fit enough, Jonjo Shelvey seems certain to start in the middle of the three.
Meanwhile, Miguel Almiron got a chance to prove his fitness when he started last week against Norwich. He’s the most likely candidate to start on the left of Shelvey.
That leaves one position that will eventually be taken by Joe Willock. But for now, Sean Longstaff may get an opportunity.
The 23-year-old is reportedly a target for Rafa Benitez and Everton.
He’s the closest thing we’ve got to a box-to-box player away from Willock, who will have to wait until next week to make his second Toon debut.
Can Wilson score his first St James’ Park goal in front of Newcastle fans?
New number nine Callum Wilson will surely start, most likely alongside Allan Saint-Maximin.
It will be Wilson’s first competitive game in front of a crowd as a Newcastle player, and fans will be buzzing to show their appreciation.
But can he start the season with a goal? He certainly enjoys playing against West Ham, scoring in last season’s 2-0 win.
Predicted XI to face West Ham: Woodman; Fernandez, Lascelles, Clark; Murphy, S.Longstaff, Shelvey, Almiron, Ritchie; Saint-Maximin, Wilson