The Magpies just confirmed a rather weird pair of matches to take place at the end of July in their home ground at St James’ Park.
The games will be played on back-to-back days. The first one will welcome Italian side Atalanta (Friday, Jul. 29) while the second will go down the following day against Spanish club Athletic Bilbao (Saturday, Jul. 30).
There is no precedent of Newcastle playing Atalanta at any point throughout the Tyneside club history, although the Magpies already faced Athletic Bilbao all the way back in the 1994/95 season when they played each other in the then UEFA Cup’s Second Round—Bilbao advanced on penalties after a two-legged 3-3 draw.
This announcement comes with a kick-off time already attached to the first game (7:45 pm UK) but not the second one. In the note released by Newcastle United, and although this is obviously not confirmed by any means, it says that the first-team squad will be split across the two games in order for Eddie Howe to field two strong-enough sides on the back-to-back affairs without risking the well being, fitness, and health of any player involved in the games.
These two matches are expected to be the last ones to take place in the upcoming pre-season for Newcastle as they’ll happen just a week before the season gets underway with the Premier League kicking off as early as Aug. 6 next season due to World Cup to be held in Qatar later in the mid-November to mid-December span.
This solves the latter part of Newcastle’s pre-season equation but the early one is still up in the air after the cancelation of the Ohio Cup earlier this month. Newcastle was one of the four teams—along with Wolverhampton, Valencia, and Villarreal—expected to tour the USA before that competition got canceled, and with it the games scheduled to take place in Columbus and Cincinnati.