Eddie Howe has pledged Newcastle will finish this season strongly after the season’s aim of safety was reached last night. There are still two matches remaining on the schedule with Arsenal next on the agenda.
The Gunners will come to an electric St. James’ Park on Monday night. Their mood could depend a lot on how tonight’s North London Derby goes. A win and they will have clinched a Champions League place.
Newcastle are coming off of two defeats against title challengers Liverpool and Manchester City. Howe received a boost with Kieran Trippier and Callum Wilson returning in cameo roles at The Etihad.
The duo looked sharp and could play major roles in how well this season ends. Newcastle’s next challenge is to eclipse last season’s points total of 45. A win on Monday will do that.
Howe was asked about his star duo during this morning’s press conference. This was his response:
“Both players would say they’re very keen to start but my job is to make sure I’m doing what’s best for the team.
“We’ve got to make sure they’re fit enough to last a long period in the game. We’ll make a decision based on the training week.”
Newcastle get an extra few days of training with the match coming at the start of next week. Hopefully, Kieran and Callum come through the training sessions unscathed and are able to start the match.
Unfortunately, as two stars return a couple of key players have been lost for the rest of the season. Both Joe Willock and Jonjo Shelvey have been ruled out for the final two matches through injury.
Howe explained both of their situations this morning while confirming they will be back in time for the pre-season:
“Jonjo has quite a serious calf injury, which is similar to the one he sustained at the start of the season.
“He’ll be out for a period of time but we expect him back for pre-season with no problems.
“Joe has had an issue with a tendon in his knee for a while. We thought we’d solved the problem but it’s come back.
“He needs a period of rest, he’s had a couple of injections, but we anticipate he’ll be fine for pre-season.”
A place in the starting eleven has been opened up for local lad Sean Longstaff. The 24-year-old started at Manchester City but has found it difficult in breaking into Howe’s team this year.
There was talk yesterday that Longstaff is reluctant to sign a new contract due to his lack of playing time. However, Howe was asked about Longstaff and he expressed confidence that an agreement will be reached saying:
“I expect a positive resolution from Sean. Fingers crossed it’s very close to being done. I don’t check on it day to day but I’m hopeful.”
Finally, there is a positive update on Ryan Fraser, who has been out of action for over a month. The winger has returned to training and is likely to be in contention for Monday. Howe provided the following on Ryan’s return after his hamstring injury:
“Ryan returned to training yesterday which is great to see. He trained very well so fingers crossed he’s fine.”