Newcastle United welcome West Ham to St James’ Park on Saturday afternoon in a crucial game at both ends of the Premier League table.
Steve Bruce’s Magpies have the chance to move nine points clear of the relegation zone after beating Burnley last time out, while David Moyes’ Irons will arrive in the northeast aiming to go third in the standings with a win.
The Toon flipped the script to clinch all three points over Sean Dyche’s Clarets following the game-changing introduction of Allan Saint-Maximin last week, while welcoming top-scorer Callum Wilson back after seven games out with a hamstring tear.
However, Newcastle still have a number of injury concerns. With that in mind, here’s a potential line-up that Bruce could name, with three changes from the XI which beat Burnley…
Bruce confirmed on Friday that Newcastle will be without summer signing Ryan Fraser when West Ham travel to Tyneside, as the Scotland winger continues to recover from a groin issue sustained during international duty.
The ex-Bournemouth maestro will be joined on the sidelines by Fabian Schar, despite the centre-back returning to training earlier this week after eight games out following surgery on a knee ligament injury.
Jamaal Lascelles and Isaac Hayden will also miss the Hammers’ visit to St James’ Park with what are likely to be season-ending foot and knee injuries respectively, but Bruce expects both Wilson and Saint-Maximin to be available.
Wilson – who Chris Kirkland lauded as being a “different animal” for Newcastle earlier in the season – has not started a Premier League fixture since February 6, while Saint-Maximin last began a top-flight match on February 27.
Bruce is loath to rush Wilson and Saint-Maximin back into the starting line-up but will now be expected to field the pair, having claimed on Friday: “You only have to look at statistics for the two of them to realise that when they’re in the team, we’re simply better.”
Wilson and Saint-Maximin starting will be at the expense of Joelinton and Dwight Gayle, who opened the action last weekend but rarely appeared like posing a threat and were replaced by the English and French forwards early in the second half before a dramatic improvement to Newcastle’s performance.
The Toon boss will also be expected to field Miguel Almiron in behind Wilson and Saint-Maximin after struggling to see the best from the Paraguayan in a deeper central midfield role at Burnley, where he took fewer touches (40) than goalkeeper Martin Dubravka (42).
A forward step for Almiron would likely see Arsenal loanee Joe Willock return to the starting line-up for the first time in three games to join Jonjo Shelvey and Sean Longstaff in the engine room.
Bruce would need to remove one of the five defenders who started at Turf Moor in order for Willock to feature, placing Ciaran Clark’s spot beside Federico Fernandez and Paul Dummett at risk after a hesitant start allowed Chris Wood in too easily to set up Matej Vydra to open the scoring last week.