Newcastle United star 'ideally' won't start v Nottingham Forest as Eddie Howe hints at £20m change
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Barnes came off the bench to score for Newcastle during the 4-4 draw with Luton Town last time out in the Premier League. But the 26-year-old hasn't started a Premier League match since September due to a foot injury.
Anthony Gordon's expected absence gives Barnes an opportunity to come back into the starting line-up for the trip to Nottingham Forest on Saturday, but Howe's preference is to ease him back into the side.
"I'd probably say ideally, if we had a fully fit squad, no [he's not ready to start]," Howe said. "He wouldn't be in contention to start and we'd very much be easing him back in.
"That would be my preference for him and a lot of the players we've had to put back into the team before they are fit to play. We've done that a number of times but we have no choice. He would fall into that bracket of easing players back in."
Howe still has the likes of Miguel Almiron and Jacob Murphy to choose from as wide options should Barnes remain on the bench for the trip to the City Ground.
"We're certainly a lot better than what we were a few weeks ago when we had two wide men for a long period of time," Howe added. "They did really well to stay fit and contribute in the way that they did. Certainly it feels like an abundance of options at the minute compared to then."
Howe also has a decision to make regarding Callum Wilson, who last started a game seven weeks ago. Like Barnes, Wilson returned from injury off the bench during last weekend's draw at St James' Park.
But with Alexander Isak and Gordon unavailable, Howe may have little choice other than to start Wilson up front.
"[Wilson] has trained well this week," Howe continued. "We're pleased with him. I thought he did well last week in a 45 minute cameo.
"Prior to that game he hadn't really trained with the team so he was thrust back into action really but he looks good, is getting his sharpness back and has had a good week in front of goal."