'Incredible' Newcastle United star could start v Nottingham Forest amid injury claim & £31m selection dilemma

Nottingham Forest v Newcastle United: Eddie Howe has some big selection decisions to make at the City Ground on Saturday.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Eddie Howe hasn't ruled out any tactical or personnel changes for Newcastle United's trip to Nottingham Forest on Saturday (5:30pm kick-off).

The Magpies head into the game with Anthony Gordon and Alexander Isak unavailable due to injury. Callum Wilson and Harvey Barnes have recently returned to fitness but Howe has hinted his preference would be to ease the players in rather than throw them in from the start - though a lack of options may prevent that.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But one big call Howe will have to make concerns the left-back position. Dan Burn has been a regular starter for Newcastle at left-back since the start of last season but his recent performances have been subject to some criticism.

The 31-year-old conceded a penalty during the 4-4 draw with Luton Town last time out and struggled to contain the threat of Chiedozie Ogbene. It was a similar story for Burn in the 3-1 defeat against Forest at St James' Park in December with Anthony Elanga causing the left-back problems throughout the match.

So with the prospect of coming up against Elanga once again, Howe was questioned about Burn's place in the side with Tino Livramento also looking to get back into the starting line-up.

When asked about his tactical approach to the match, Howe said: "I'm thinking lots of things, I'm thinking things every day.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Ultimately you'll have to wait and see what tomorrow brings but we're always thinking about how we can improve, so if that's a change of system or a change of personnel, we'll look at it. But I think we have to remember also the last few games haven't been that bad.

"We drew a game against Luton, yes, but then prior to that we beat Aston Villa and Fulham in the FA Cup, narrowly lost to Manchester City, beat Sunderland, so our form actually in the last few games has been pretty good. I don't think that should be forgotten."

Howe also went on to praise Burn as a player who has exceeded his expectations since he signed for the club from Brighton & Hove Albion just over two years ago.

"I understand [criticism] happens, that's part of the game," Howe said. "Dan has been such a big player for us and he's pivotal to how we play in lots of different ways without giving too much away tactically. That's why he was such a big miss when we lost him through injury and he's also a leader in the group and a big presence physically and vocally.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"That leadership can't be underestimated, he's been an incredible signing for me and much better than I could have hoped for really.

Burn missed seven matches for Newcastle after falling awkwardly and breaking his back against Arsenal in November but returned ahead of schedule to help the club amid an injury crisis.

“Yeah, he did [break his back]," Howe confirmed. "That was the technical term for his injury when he landed and he actually did it again against Fulham and we were worried the same injury was going to happen again.

"It is another injury we speak about and I don’t know how you prevent that. It was an accidental fall.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“He showed tremendous courage to come back way ahead of schedule because you could see the team needed him. He has played in a little bit of discomfort, especially in the first couple of games. He has got through that and I think he is on his way to feeling really good again. 

"You also have to remember he has chipped in with important goals this season. He has done really well from that perspective. I know I said the other day how important he is from set plays and how important that phase of the game is and it is often underestimated. That can win and lose you games.

Howe added on Burn: "He has been good. He has been typical Dan. From my side he takes minimal energy away from me.

"He is always adding energy to me. When you have players like that, it is so important. I can’t highlight again his leadership skills are second to none."

Tino Livramento in action for Newcastle United. Tino Livramento in action for Newcastle United.
Tino Livramento in action for Newcastle United.
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Addressing the left-back position, Howe also has Livramento to consider when picking his team. The 21-year-old has helped shore up Newcastle defensively after coming on in recent matches while also posing an attacking threat.

But Livramento's only Premier League starts for Newcastle have came during Burn's spell out of the team due to injury. And Howe maintains Burn is his most 'natural' left-back option available given the long-term injury to Matt Targett.

"Our natural left-back at the moment is Dan because he's left-footed but Tino has played there," he said. "I'm not fixated with those words really because Tino has played very well at left-back this season.

"Lewis Hall has played left-back and has done very well in that position and continues to improve. Paul Dummett has played left-back, Alex Murphy is a talented young player coming through who can play left-back so we have an abundance of options. Matt [Targett] we've missed with his experience in that position.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

While Howe wouldn't give anything away in terms of his team selection, he admitted he would have no reservations about starting Livramento at left-back.   "He's an outstanding player and that's why I fought so hard to sign him," added the Newcastle boss. "A real talent. Athletically very good. His best years are ahead of him. I'm the biggest fan of Tino that there can be."