Eddie Howe considers two players doubtful to feature when Newcastle host Liverpool on Saturday, but two others have escaped injury layoffs.
The buildup to Liverpool’s trip to St James’ Park this weekend has been dominated by fitness issues for their hosts.
In their 1-1 draw at Bournemouth last weekend, Newcastle saw Joe Willock, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin all forced off due to injuries.
After that game, Howe expressed hope that both Almiron and Saint-Maximin would avoid time out, but admitted concern over Willock’s hamstring issue in a mounting midfield crisis.
In his pre-match press conference on Friday, the Newcastle manager confirmed Willock was “doubtful” for the visit of Liverpool, joining the suspended Bruno Guimaraes in sitting out.
That leaves a likely partnership of Sean Longstaff and Joelinton in the middle of the park, with a possible change of system to a 4-2-3-1 with Anthony Gordon as No. 10.
Furthermore, when speaking to reporters, Howe revealed that Callum Wilson could also miss Saturday’s game, hoping he would be able to train despite a “very minor complaint.”
“[Almiron and Saint-Maximin] have been back training, and they’re fine,” he explained.
“Callum’s done really well. As we said at the time, it was a very minor complaint for him.
“He hasn’t trained yet – we hope he trains today, and then he’s in contention.”
Matt Targett has returned to training but Howe said that he “won’t push him this weekend,” while Javi Manquillo, Emil Krath and Matty Longstaff all remain out.
With Wilson a doubt, Alexander Isak is expected to start again on Saturday, with Almiron and Saint-Maximin flanking the striker.
In the absence of Willock and Guimaraes, Howe’s only other midfield options are youngsters Elliot Anderson, 20, and Lewis Miley, 16, while Joelinton will be forced to play with caution as he is one booking away from a suspension.
Newcastle are unbeaten in seven games in all competitions and 17 in the Premier League, with their only league defeat so far this season the 2-1 loss to Liverpool in August.
“I wouldn’t say [we] owe Liverpool one,” Howe insisted on Friday.
“We owe ourselves to do our best in this game and do everything in our power to try and win the match.
“I’m reluctant to use Liverpool as motivation for us. We shouldn’t need that.
“It should come from ourselves, our league position, and our needs and wants to have a successful season.”