Newcastle United will play their last preseason match of the season on Sunday a week ahead of their season opener with Manchester City at St James' Park. Their opponent, Real Sociedad, are still two weeks away from commencing their own campaign, but both teams are expected to field relatively strong teams.
Alan Pardew's squad is expected to closely resemble the one that faced Huddersfield Town five days ago. That XI, made up mostly of first-teamers, fell behind early before salvaging a draw when Facundo Ferreyra and Remy Cabella pounced on a late mistake. We do know that Daryl Janmaat will once again start, which is good news for those who would prefer that Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa stay in his natural, central position.
The article linked above from the NUFC official site mentions that Cheik Tiote and Siem de Jong may miss out due to injury concerns, but we can reasonably expect that the other positions will be occupied by the players who will get the call in a week's time, at least for a little while. Others that expect to compete for a significant role in the team, like Gabriel Obertan or Rolando Aarons, may be given one final test as well.
Ultimately, the questions that will be answered on Sunday will be minor ones. We're not likely to find the next great central defensive pairing, for example, but we may gain a better understanding of where Moussa Sissoko will play this year, or about which of the myriad left backs will be preferred.
Here are the main things I'm watching:
1 - Will Alan Pardew start two strikers, and if so, how will they work together?
2 - Was the hoofball strategy of the last match a one-off, or should we brace ourselves for long balls all season long?
3 - If Siem de Jong doesn't play, who runs the midfield?
4 - Who takes corners, if not Colback?
5 - Can we please get out of this thing injury free? Thanks.
What are you looking for?