Newcastle United head to Leeds United this weekend hoping to bounce back from a rare blip against Arsenal last week. Eddie Howe sends his Magpies to Elland Road for Saturday’s early kick-off knowing a win piles yet more pressure on top four-chasing rivals Manchester United and Liverpool.
The United boss addressed the media on Friday, offering injury updates ahead of the trip to face Sam Allardyce’s side. Newcastle’s bench is looking significantly stronger than this time last season and Howe now has some positive headaches to address as Newcastle look to get back to winning ways.
Sean Longstaff has become a key member of this Newcastle side in recent months and his absence is really felt these days. The midfielder missed both the 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa and the 2-0 loss to Arsenal in recent weeks, with Newcastle struggling to control the midfield on both occasions.
Longstaff is nursing a foot injury at present after being on the receiving end of a heavy James Tarkowski tackle in the win over Everton last month. Speaking on Friday, Howe said: “He (Longstaff) went to see a specialist. I think there were a few concerns that there may be some sort of structural damage in his foot. There wasn’t, which is good news, but there is a bit of damage to one of the ligaments.
“He’s being re-scanned today, actually, which we hope will show an improvement. It’s slightly unclear when he’ll be back, but it’s not a long-term issue at all. It’s whether we can get him back before the end of the season.”
Newcastle are light on midfield options and Longstaff’s absence will see Joelinton used in the middle rather than out wide, alongside Bruno Guimaraes and Joe Willock. Elliot Anderson can fill in if needed, along with Matt Ritchie, but the latter is set to spend to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
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Left wing battle
Joelinton being used in the middle means one less decision for Howe out wide. But Newcastle still have a wealth of options on the left, with Alexander Isak, Anthony Gordon and Allan Saint-Maximin all in with a shout of featuring from the outset.
Joelinton has struck up a fine partnership with Joe Willock in that area of the pitch of late but it was Isak who got the nod against Arsenal. Saint-Maximin and Gordon both came off the bench but failed to make an impact.
The fan base seems split as to who they want to see get the nod in that position, leaving Howe with a big decision on his hands.
Wilson, Isak or both?
If Isak doesn’t start on the wing, it’s likely he will be used through the middle. The Swede has been battling with Callum Wilson for Newcastle’s out and out striker position in recent months after both men found form in front of goal.
Isak lost his place up front after Wilson’s eight goals in April meant he was the man who started in the defeat to Arsenal. Newcastle’s record signing has already proven he can have a devastating impact on games when deployed down the left but struggled to get into the game at St James’ Park.
Howe said: “I saw enough from Alex, who played well I thought, to know he can play that position. Callum in the No 9 role is an outstanding player so I’ll consider it.”
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