It seems more than two weeks since we had out last league game, but of course a lot of things, mostly bad, have happened since that time.
Kevin is gone, so the team tomorrow will be managed by Chris Hughton and Richard Money, with Alan Thompson also helping out.
The thing that Keegan was most worried about is already showing through, as we already have a number of injuries to some of our key players. Not playing tomorrow because of injury will be Damien Duff, Jose Enrique, Mark Viduka, Obafemi Martins and Jonas Gutierrez, who injured his shoulder in Peru while playing for Argentina on Wednesday night, in their 1-1 draw.
The bad news is that it looks like Mark Viduka will be out for another 6 weeks with his Achilles heel injury.
However, we still have some good players available to overcome both the bad 3-0 defeat at the Emirates last time out, and Chris Hughton will be pleased to welcome back Geremi and Claudio Cacapa from injury and we would expect Geremi to start.
The players missed the 3-0 defeat at Arsenal last month but are now back in contention, and coach Chris Hughton said today:
“They are two very experienced players and it is very good to have them back,”
We would expect the team to line up as follows:
Beye Coloccini Taylor Bassong
Geremi Butt Guthrie N’Zogbia
Subs: Harper Edgar Cacapa Ameobi Gonzalez Smith Ranger
That’s not a bad team at all and many of the players are in good form, including Given, Coloccini and Michael Owen. It will be good to see how Xisco plays with Michael Owen, and that defense looks quite solid.
We expect Butt and Guthrie to start in central midfield, and new boy Gonzalez can be given a run-out in the second half. What we don’t want to see is Guthrie being played out on the wing, making way for Gonzalez in the center.
That’s a mistake Big Sam kept making by trying to play what he thought were the best 11 players, but playing some out of position – and that never seems to work very well.
Make no mistake, even though there is disarray at the Tyneside club right now, this is an important game for us, and we have to pick up wins at home, especially against the Hull’s of this league, who were hammered at home by Wigan 5-0, last time out.
That’s not meant to be disrespectful to Hull or to their fans, but if we are to really to finish in the upper echelons of the league this time out, a win is a must tomorrow.
One way to think of this game is that it’s the next step back on the road to recovery for the side, and 3 points will give us 7 points out of our first 4 games – not too bad at all.