‘A big miss’ - Eddie Howe considers £115m Newcastle United change v Brentford after injury blow confirmed

Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe faces some tough decisions heading into Saturday’s Premier League match against Brentford at St James’ Park (5:30pm kick-off).

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Newcastle go into the game on the back of three straight defeats with Howe naming a virtually unchanged side in each of the opening four Premier League games with the exception of Sven Botman being replaced by Matt Targett for the Brighton & Hove Albion match due to injury.

As Botman closes in on a return, Howe could be forced to make another change to his Magpies’ starting line-up after Sandro Tonali picked up a thigh injury while on international duty.

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A late call will be made on the midfielder with Sean Longstaff poised to come into the side in place of the £52million Italian.

And Howe admitted in his pre-match press conference that his side has ‘missed’ having Longstaff in it.

“Sean was injured in pre-season so it wasn’t a case of Sean dropping out of the team or anything but I rate Sean highly and we’ve missed him since he was injured at the back end of last season, if you remember, he was a big miss for us,” Howe said.

“Sean is returning to full fitness in my opinion after a period out. The team missed him at the back end of last season, not just the beginning of this.

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“He’s got unbelievable endurance levels - fitness-wise he’s an incredible athlete, which is sometimes underrated. But also his brains, he’s got a very good understanding of how we want to play.

“Positionally he’s very good and he’s got a really good range of passing so, yeah, Sean is a top player.”

Newcastle’s midfield trio of Joelinton, Bruno Guimaraes and Tonali has been scrutinised following the three straight defeats with Longstaff potentially able to come in and provide greater balance.

“They’ve all got different qualities,” Howe added. “That’s not the only midfield three I can pick. You’re looking for a balance of qualities and for it to work in the team structure. It can, as proved against Aston Villa.

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“Obviously it hasn’t been as successful in the last three games so we’re constantly looking at how we can improve.”

Elsewhere in the squad, Howe faces a decision whether to keep £63million record signing Alexander Isak up front or hand Callum Wilson his first start of the campaign. Wilson has been limited to substitute appearances so far this season but is still United’s joint-top scorer so far this season with two goals to his name.

Wilson has just signed a new one-year extension at Newcastle and Howe has praised the striker’s attitude despite a lack of starts.

“He’s been very good, very professional around the group and supportive of his teammates,” added The Magpies’ boss. “But underneath that I know, and I can’t swear can I, I know he has been eager to play.

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“Not just for himself but for the team to do well. I know he has his own individual motivations and I think you saw when he came on against Brighton that he played really well, was in a good place and scored a really good goal for us.”