Miles Starforth's Newcastle United Q&A: Eddie Howe’s big ‘concern’, Callum Wilson decision – and suspension blow
And Eddie Howe has a couple of decisions to make ahead of the televised fixture at St James' Park.
Here, we look at the issues facing United’s head coach after losses to Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool.
What’s the latest on injuries?
The treatment room has emptied in recent weeks, and Howe doesn’t have too many injury concerns ahead of the game aside. One player who could return is defender Fabian Schar, who missed last weekend’s match through concussion protocols after taking a blow to the head in the Carabao Cup final defeat to Manchester United at Wembley. If passed fit, Schar would replace club captain Jamaal Lascelles in the starting XI. Speaking after the City game, Howe said: “Fabian took a nasty knock to his eye. He had a nasty cut and bruise. He did some tests with the doctor during the week, so he wasn’t going to be available."
Who will play up front?
Arguably the biggest decision Howe has to make is on his striker. Howe has the option to freshen up his attack by fielding Alexander Isak up front ahead of Callum Wilson, who has started the last two games after recovering from the “minor” hamstring injury which kept him out against Bournemouth. Unusually, Wilson, a hugely-important player for Howe, has struggled to make an impact – and Howe has admitted that the team’s lack of goals is a “concern” at the weekend. Isak has impressed off the bench, and is a strong contender to start against Wolves. Asked about Isak at the Etihad Stadium. Howe said: “I think he's growing and learning and developing all the time. I was pleased with his introduction.”
What’s the mood like in the camp?
The club has suffered three successive 2-0 defeats, but Howe has taken a lot of confidence from the performances between the two boxes in those games. United competed very well with City. There was no attempt to park the bus, and they were pushing for an equaliser when Pep Guardiola’s side scored a second with a deflected goal. Newcastle also went toe to toe against Liverpool with 10 men. Yes, the losses will have affected confidence, but not by much. Howe also spoke to his players individually and collectively after the Carabao Cup final defeat to ensure that they were in the right frame of mind to face City, and they were certainly competitive against the champions. United have an opportunity to get back to winning ways after a tough run of games.
Who comes in for Joelinton?
This should be a straightforward decision, as Howe has Joe Willock, a substitute at the weekend, waiting for an opportunity. Joelinton, suspended for two games after picking up his 10th booking of the season at the Etihad Stadium, will be a miss, but this should be a great opportunity for Willock, whose athleticism and drive will be needed as the club looks to get back on to the front foot. Speaking about his bench at the Etihad Stadium, Howe said: “We had a good bench. You just have to look at the quality the players we had, the squad was near enough at full strength. We're going to need that strength with Joe missing."