While he discussed multiple topics, most interestingly regarding who will defend the Magpies’ goalposts, the coach provided a vital update on the status of two main players in Newcastle’s structure.
The cup final sits in the middle of a run of poor results and a daunting pair of matchups waiting on the Magpies' schedule. Newcastle get to the final with Bruno finally back available after completing his three-match suspension last weekend, but they will have to wait until the final hours before the game to know if they can count on two other key pieces of the team: midfielders Joelinton and Joe Willock.
Howe said on Tuesday that he thinks “Joelinton is OK” following his hamstring injury suffered on Saturday’s 0-2 defeat to Liverpool.
The Brazil international wanted to stay on the pitch for longer than he did, ultimately getting subbed off the St James’ Park lawn and replaced by Matt Ritchie.
Regarding Joe Willock, who lastly appeared in a game on Feb. 11 in the clash against Bournemouth, Howe said that the midfielder “will be in a race to be fit,” before adding that the medical and coaching staff “are hopeful” of a return in time for Sunday’s kick-off.
Howe detailed Willock’s situation by saying the 23-year-old “will probably be touch and go during the week,” adding that “he has improved” and that Newcastle will “probably [make] a late decision” on whether or not to consider him fit on matchday.
This leaves Sean Longstaff, Joelinton, and Bruno as the starting midfield trio to pencil in Howe’s starting XI with Elliott Anderson as the main replacement off the bench if Willock is not fully fit on Sunday.
Matt Targett has not played first-team football since he last appeared in a game last November, logging four minutes off the bench against Chelsea right before the World Cup break. He finally returned to a football pitch with the U21 squad last weekend getting an hour of playing time.
“I was really pleased with what [Targett] did, so I’d say yeah, he’ll be available for selection,” said Howe when asked about the availability of his defender for Sunday’s final. “We thought it was wise to leave him out of the game (against Liverpool last Saturday), but I’m really pleased with his fitness (after playing with the U21).”