Dude, what a long international break.
Newcastle United and the rest of their Premier League buddies are back in action this weekend after a seemingly never-ending hiatus with the Magpies hosting the not-so-menacing Eagles of Crystal Palace at St James’ Park.
Of course, you have heard about the main story surrounding this whole game, which has nothing to do with the actual match itself. Yes, I’m talking about Sandro Tonali’s alleged involvement in illegal betting, namely placing wagers on his own club, to put the cherry on top of a disastrous development.
Coming off a draw against West Ham, Newcastle is now boasting a ridiculous seven-game unbeaten streak across all competitions. Oh, by the way, “all competitions” include not losing (and winning, even!) Champions League and Cup matches this season, just in case!
Manager Eddie Howe will definitely try to keep the vibes up with a game against Borussia Dortmund next midweek, but that also means that we might be in for some rotations even with the lads coming back from less-demanding international play.
As for Crystal Palace, they arrive at the weekend following a goalless draw against Nottingham Forest the last time we saw them.
Newcastle’s Anthony Gordon returns from suspension and with Tonali most definitely out it’ll be a challenge for Howe to figure out a working midfield.
Here are some of Howe’s Wisdom Nuggets, courtesy of NUFC.com
On Sandro Tonali, subject to investigation by the Italian Prosecutor’s Office and Italian Football Federation (FIGC) in relation to illegal betting activity, and the Italian midfielder's availability ahead of tomorrow’s Premier League clash:
“He’s very much with us. He trained with us twice this week and he’s very much available for selection. Like I do with all the players, analyzing their training performances and how they look and feel. Sandro’s trained well with us.
“He’s had a very difficult couple of weeks. He’s been dealing with a lot and, from what I can see, he’s handling himself really well and he’s dealing with his emotions incredibly strongly. Underneath that, I’m sure there’s a lot going on so I’ll have to make a call.
“For me (the support for Sandro), it’s absolutely crucial. The most important part of this whole incident is Sandro and his welfare. It’s very easy for people to forget how young he is and the changes he’s had in his life coming from Italy to England. That’s hard enough to deal with and now he has this situation.
“We feel straight away, as a football club, it was throw our arms around him and protect him and try to give him the love and support he needs to find solutions to the problems that he’s had. That’s what we are endeavoring to do with a lot of conversations and a lot of communication with him and his family because it’s not just Sandro, it’s the people around him that’s so important to him.
“It’s been a big effort from us and I have to say he’s handled himself superbly well with respect and dignity.”
On injury issues, including the likes of Joelinton, Alexander Isak, Sven Botman and Joe Willock:
“He’s (Joelinton) trained well and looked good. He’s done a lot of work so I’m confident that he’s going to be okay and hopefully return to the form that we know he can produce. He’s a huge player for us.
“Alex hasn’t trained with us yet. We’re going to leave it late to see if he is fit and available. Sven is improving and the the two weeks have been good for him.
“I’m the same as Joe (Willock) - I want him back but, of course, we have to do it sensibly. He’s trained this week for the first time, back with the group. (It’s) probably a bit early for him to be involved in the matchday squad but he’s getting closer. He’s a huge player for us.”
On Crystal Palace, who carried out Premier League stalemates against the Magpies in both fixtures last season:
“Roy’s done an incredible job going back there in a difficult moment for the team. He brought stability to the club as he does everywhere he manages. He brings organization and a real structure to their play. A very difficult team to play against and to score against this year.
“Defensively, they’ve been very good. They don’t have (Wilfried) Zaha now but still have very dangerous players and players that can hurt you on transitions.
“They’ve got some real threats so we can’t underestimate the challenge and can’t get blind-sided by other distractions for us. This game will be hard enough so all our focus is on our training and preparation for the game.”
On the busy schedule, with United set to play three competitive games per week before November’s international break:
“It’s strange looking back to last year, feeling that was intense and then you come into this period which is a different level but it’s something we enjoyed in the last period and the team performed really well.
“I think, hopefully, if we can continue to set our standards very high, we can continue our good form.”
On Anthony Gordon, who missed Newcastle’s Premier League trip to West Ham United after serving a one-match suspension:
“I think Anthony’s been magnificent this season. His game’s gone to another level. I think it was well-documented that his fitness levels had gone to another level as well. We saw that from the first day of pre-season with us where he performed really well in our testing.
“He’s had a real determination to do well. He’s been consistent. The suspension (against West Ham) and losing him was a big blow for us because of his consistent form. He’s just become a dad for the first time so a lot has happened in his life in a short period of time. He’s in a really good place.”
On Lewis Miley, who made his first competitive start for his boyhood club in last month’s Carabao Cup victory against Manchester City at St. James’ Park:
“He’s got glandular fever so he’s currently resting from that. I think he’s probably a couple of weeks into what will be four weeks of lower physical exertion but then hopefully we can build him up.
“That’s a real blow for us and for him because he’s a real talent but I think, at such a young age, we have to nurse him through this.
“He’d certainly have been in and around the squad. He was before the illness. He’s a player we really like.”
- Date: Saturday, Oct. 21st
- Kick-off: 15:00 BST / 10:00 EST
- Location: St James’ Park, Newcastle (England)