The time has come for the healing of the recently open wounds in Newcastle’s tissue. The loss to Liverpool was impossible to predict and totally unexpected, as it happened clearly outside of the regulation—added-time included—and left everybody dumbfounded at how Klopp and the Red boys were able to convince the Premier League to give them a hand to keep the international broadcasting markets interested in the product.
Entering today’s game at home, hosting Crystal Palace the only thing the Magpies can hope for is a properly sanctioned football match with its 90 minutes of playing time and those of added time being diligently addressed.
The Men in Black will make it to the pitch wounded—both morally and physically—as that loss to Liverpool this past midweek is only half of their ongoing story. The other half, of course, related to injuries and availability issues from half of the first-team squad. Jonjo Shelvey and Emil Krafth won’t be near a football pitch until we welcome the year 2023. Callum Wilson, one soon to feature for the Three Lions in Qatar, is out for a few games. Bruno and Allan Saint-Maximin got banged up of late and although teasing comebacks are still a few days away and, most probably, better left off any type of demanding task if only because of precautionary measures. And to top it all, Alexander the Great suffered a dead leg against the Reds and might not be fully fit making way for seemingly-always-wrongly-apt Chris Wood up front.
As was the case when all was said and done last season, Crystal Palace is also Newcastle’s copycat and Costco version so far this year. One fewer point last season, one fewer point at this point in the campaign. One position down in the table then, one position down in the table now.
On and on it goes... So much so, that Crystal Palace is still the team relying on Czar Zaha to right their wrongs and keep Patrick Vieira’s head above water. It’s been five games and not only is Zaha leading the way in goals scored by the Eagles but he’s also been the only man to actually help his team get points in the Premier League with goals that put Palace on balance or ahead of their rivals in those games.
The strategy for Howe’s team to follow should be clear: nullify Zaha’s impact on the game and block his way to the scoreboard and chances are Newcastle win this one. Only, that looks much easier on paper than to do on a football pitch under the bright lights of a Premier League match.
FotMob.com best guess at the upcoming Starting XIs from the Magpies and the Eagles is in, so let’s go through it.
- Not Available: Emil Krafth (Knee), Jonjo Shelvey (thigh), Callum Wilson (hamstring)
- Doubtful: Javier Manquillo (groin), Jamal Lewis (calf), Bruno (knock), Allan Saint-Maximin (knock), Alexander Isak (leg contusion)
- Dubby is off to Manchester and will be gone until January at the very least. Not the greatest of news considering the backup goalkeepers, but definitely something positive when it comes to steadily name the no. 1 weekly. Nick Pope is the no-brainer pick going forward so that’s one fewer headache to deal with.
- The projection depicted above includes a five-man back for Newcastle featuring the three main center-backs along with two wing-backs. See, I have no problem in featuring such a unit—even more if Bruno misses the game—but I don’t think Howe wants to really change his classic 4-3-3 for a 3-4-3 and make that a weekly thing. That’s why I’m betting on the classic four-man backline over a three/five one.
- Assuming the lineup above is wrong and the backline features four men, both defensive backs should be very chalky picks: Matt Targett on the left and Kieran Trippier on the right. No big deal choosing those two. That said, the center-back pairing might actually change the outlook of things.
- That last sentence is related to last Wednesday’s benching of both Fabian Schar and Sven Botman for the match against Liverpool. Schar had started all four prior games and has played the most minutes among Newcastle players with fewer than five started matches. He’s a lock to man the center of the defense against Crystal Palace. Dan Burn has actually started all five games this season and has the fourth-most played minutes (Joelinton, Pope, and Trippier are the only players who have not been substituted yet, all with 450 total minutes played.) Had I to give my two cents, I’d bet on Burn starting along with Schar and Botman, the former on the left flank kissing the sideline and the latter two in the center of the defense with Targett getting another match of rest as he gets to his 100% after getting a bit banged up of late. We’ll see how this gets dealt with.
- Howe was forced into using a midfield trio comprised of Joe Willock, Sean Longstaff, and Joelinton against Liverpool after Bruno couldn’t ultimately make it to the midweek affair. It worked, mostly, because of Joelinton’s excellence at everything. Willock’s pace helped on the offensive transition and Longstaff, while his usual non-flashy self, was consistent enough to not put Newcastle in danger. Joelinton is an obvious starter no matter what. Willock has been a favorite of Howe over Longstaff to feature on the starting lineup this season. The third piece of the midfield puzzle is harder to predict. Bruno has teased a probable comeback with a pic showing a pair of laced boots on social networks... but it feels like rushing him back to the field would bring more risks to the table than actual results. With that pick out of the equation, I’m afraid Howe will need to rely on Longstaff once more with Bruno making a brief cameo in the second half—assuming he ends playing at all. As for the pairing man to Joelinton and Longstaff, give me Geordie’s own Elliot Anderson making his first start for the team joined at the ripe age of eight years old.
- Definitely and unsurprisingly the most damaged and indecipherable part of Newcastle’s current formation conundrum. Remember Saint-Maximin, Willson, Isak, Bruno, and who knows who else are banged up or straight unavailable this weekend so it’s slim pickings and reserve-caliber players left for Howe to choose as starters to face Crystal Palace.
- Call me optimistic, but I have to assume Alexander Isak is going to be fully available and fit come kick-off time. He suffered a dead leg in his debut last Wednesday, but I don’t expect any major issues threatening his presence on SJP today barring something completely out of the plan happening to him while warming up. That’s the striker question on the 4-3-3 formation already solved.
- The two most often used wingers (Almirón and Saint-Maximin) would be out there in a perfect world. Only, you know, ASM missed the game against Liverpool entirely when it didn’t look like he had suffered any major injury last Sunday against Wolves. You never know, is what I’m saying. Again, as with Isak, I have to assume Allan Saint-Maximin will be fit after resting for a full week, though Howe should be cautious in order to prevent any further damage to an already slim crop of available players. If we’re taking a cautionary approach—and I definitely would against an on-par-with-Newcastle side—then I’d go with a starting XI featuring Ryan Fraser on the left. Fraser was good enough against Pool and is the best-attacking midfielder on Newcastle’s bench, so picking him in the event of ASM missing another game shouldn’t pose a hard riddle to solve. Second-half minutes, depending on how the game develops, might still be there for ASM to get in order to get his legs going ahead of next weekend's match.
- Wilson has ruled himself out for this game and perhaps another one, so that’s a no-go. On the completely opposite hand, Almirón is available (how not...) and ready to run another 20 kilometers as he usually does, so yes, it’s Miguel Almirón on the right wing against the Eagles. Some things never change.
CHN Predicted Lineup
DEF Trippier - Schar - Botman - Burn
MID Longstaff - Joelinton - Anderson
WNG Almirón - Fraser
How we line-up at St. James' Park this afternoon...— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) September 3, 2022
⚫️ HOWAY THE LADS! ⚪️ pic.twitter.com/JQrKAFmnhF
Crystal Palace XI
Newcastle vs. Crystal Palace
- Date: Saturday, September 3rd
- Kick-off: 15:00 BST / 10:00 EST / 8:00 PST
- Location: St James Park, Newcastle (England)
- TV: Talksport 2 Radio UK (UK), Peacock (USA), fuboTV (Canada)
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Howay the Lads!