Former England boss Steve McClaren takes charge of his first Premier League match since 2006 as he begins his tenure at Newcastle United at home to Southampton.
The state of unrest among supporters on Tyneside last season reached considerable lengths as a run of successive defeats under John Carver left their top-flight status in severe doubt, but victory on the final day at least spared them from the ignominy of relegation. It was clear that the squad needed a major injection of quality, so much so that it has forced the oft-criticised owner Mike Ashley to open his chequebook.
Prolific Anderlecht striker Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dutch international midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum are the two big-money signings, and they need to make a positive impact early on with the team under such pressure to perform. Crucially, the Magpies have so far managed to hold on to Moussa Sissoko, who looked a cut above many of his teammates for much of 2014-15.
The top half will be the aim for the hosts, and Southampton provide a good model for achieving that. Again, they have refused to be affected by the loss of a couple of key players in this summer’s transfer window, with Cedric Soares and Jordy Clasie appearing shrewd replacements for departed duo Nathaniel Clyne and Morgan Schneiderlin. Nobody will make the mistake of tipping them to struggle this time around.
The manner in which they saw off Vitesse Arnhem 5-0 over two legs in their Europa League qualifier suggests the Saints will be a force to be reckoned with again, with Spaniard Juanmi adding to an array of quality attacking options. Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane were both on the score-sheet in the Netherlands on Thursday, and with such a strong defence, they can be expected to achieve many more great things.
Chancel Mbemba is also among those players who could earn their Newcastle debut, but they are likely to be without Paul Dummett, Emmanuel Riviere and Cheick Tiote. Captain Fabricio Coloccini will be assessed.
Due to Fraser Forster’s long-term injury, Maarten Stekelenburg will be in goal for Southampton who are waiting on the fitness of Clasie and Shane Long. Defenders Ryan Bertrand and Florin Gardos are both absent.
Played for both – Olivier Bernard: Signed from Lyon in 2000, Bernard was a mainstay of the successful Sir Bobby Robson era at St. James’ Park, scoring six goals in 102 league appearances in a five-year spell that peaked with third place in 2003 and participation in the Champions League. His spell in the south was more short lived, playing 13 times and finding himself unable to help Saints stay up in 2005.