With the new campaign only just in its infancy Newcastle United are already facing up to one of their biggest games of the season as on Saturday the Magpies face bitter local rivals Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
The Geordies very much had the upper hand last season but both sides have changed dramatically over the past few months. Sunderland have been one of the biggest spenders in the current transfer window while Newcastle’s new acquisitions have mainly been free transfers. It could be a baptism of fire for some of the Magpies’ new faces with the intensity of a Tyne-Wear derby. To help prepare the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba manager Alan Pardew has shown them videos of past encounters.
Newcastle could name an unchanged team against Sunderland with Hatem Ben Arfa the only long-term injury problem. Ryan Taylor should continue at left-back with few other alternatives available. Striker Shola Ameobi will be hoping to continue his fine goalscoring form against the Wearsiders and is targeting goal number seven.
The Magpies continue to be frustrated in the transfer market with it looking unlikely any new faces will arrive before Saturday. Another striker and a left-back are the top priorities, as they have been for much of the summer. The most likely candidate for the former position could be Sochaux forward Modibo Maiga. The Mali international has recently refused to play for his club to help force through a move to the North East. The 23-year-old has been quoted as saying: “I
Young goalkeeper Fraser Forster has returned to Celtic on another season long loan deal. The 23-year-old impressed north of the border last season but has been unable to force his way into the first team on Tyneside. Forster was handed a few chances in pre-season but a shaky display against Leeds United failed to help his cause. He returns to Celtic on a temporary basis with the view to a permanent switch.
That leaves Steve Harper and Tim Krul to fight it out for the No 1 jersey with the latter the most likely to continue between the posts. Harper has been struggling with injury for most of the summer and may find his opportunities limited due to fitness doubts. Newcastle have also been strongly linked with Charlton Athletic goalkeeper Rob Elliot in the past few days. If he makes the move north then Harper’s future would be more uncertain.