Steve Bruce will hope he can guide Newcastle United back to winning ways and forget the dismal defeat to Brighton when Tottenham Hotspur visit St James’ Park on Sunday.
However, the Toon are set to be without Callum Wilson as their 10-goal top scorer continues his recovery from a hamstring injury, but Allan Saint-Maximin could be available after a three-game lay-off with a groin issue.
With that in mind, here’s a potential line-up that Bruce may field against Jose Mourinho’s Spurs, who will be striving to make ground in the race for Champions League qualification, and we anticipate two changes from the team which was thumped 3-0 at Brighton last time out.
Bruce entered the weekend with a number of minor injury concerns following the international break, but was dealt a huge blow before the pause in domestic fixtures with Isaac Hayden ruled out for the rest of the season with a significant knee injury.
Jeff Hendrick will hope he can capitalise on the Englishman’s misfortune, having replaced Hayden against Brighton to make his 19th league appearance of the campaign, but should be overlooked in favour of a recall for Matty Longstaff.
The academy graduate was omitted from the matchday squad at the Amex Stadium for the sixth time in Newcastle’s last seven games and has not played since January’s 3-0 defeat to Arsenal.
Bruce’s decision to overlook Longstaff has caught some of his Newcastle teammates by surprise given that the 21-year-old is fully fit, and he should look to change perceptions with a recall as the midfielder can hold his own against the best and rarely shies away from a challenge.
Bruce will be expected to recall Saint-Maximin to the starting line-up for the first time since drawing 1-1 with Wolverhampton Wanderers in February, at the likely expense of Ryan Fraser despite the Scotland winger earning his nation a vital point against Israel recently with a neat finish.
“He [Saint-Maximin] could be, yeah,” Bruce said on Friday. “We’ve still got two days to train, today and tomorrow, but he came through a big training session 48 hours ago, so we hope he’s a bit more advanced than Callum is. We hope he can play some part.”
Bruce has previously lauded Saint-Maximin for what he brings to the United line-up, as the Toon “looked a threat” when playing on the counter-attack thanks to the Frenchman’s “blistering pace”.
Newcastle being without Wilson will likely see Joelinton retain his place alongside Saint-Maximin in the split-striker system Bruce currently favours, given the manager’s glowing endorsement of the Brazilian’s recent efforts.
“I thought Joelinton, arguably, had his best game in a Newcastle shirt. I thought he was terrific on the night,” Bruce said, via quotes by Chronicle Live, in relation to the striker’s performance against Aston Villa last month.
“But, of course, a striker has to top it off by scoring a goal. He understands that, but his overall performance was very, very good. I thought he led the line very, very well.”
Newcastle also have concerns in goal with Martin Dubravka returning from international duty having missed two of Slovakia’s three World Cup qualifiers through illness, although Bruce doubts that the 32-year-old will miss Sunday’s clash with Spurs.
“Martin hasn’t been very well, but we expect him to be OK,” Bruce noted on Friday. “We expect him in for training today and we’ll have a chat with him to see how he feels, but we think he’ll be OK.”
Bruce will be expected to name an unchanged defence of Paul Dummett, Ciaran Clark, Jamaal Lascelles and Javier Manquillo against Mourinho’s north London natives, with Jonjo Shelvey, Joe Willock and Miguel Almiron joining whoever replaces Hayden in midfield.