This is the team I am predicting Eddie Howe will name for tomorrow’s match against Nottingham Forest at St. James’ Park. It has just one change (Fabian Schar in for Lascelles) to the side that closed last season with a 2-1 win at Burnley.
Eddie Howe has had a full pre-season to prepare the lads with two new faces in the ranks. However, the side that starts this campaign may not look too different from the one that ended the previous one with impressive aplomb.
Howe has some selection headaches in multiple areas of the pitch. The two new signings, Nick Pope and Sven Botman, have made their case for debuts tomorrow. However, Martin Dubravka and Dan Burn have done the same to keep their place.
I suspect Howe will keep Dubravka in between the posts until the need arises to make a change. Martin has been excellent this pre-season and arguably outplayed Pope for the right to start the campaign as the number one.
The center-back partnership of Fabian Schar and Dan Burn were excellent last season. While Botman is knocking on the door with a stellar pre-season, Howe may opt to stick with the experienced pair, at least at the start.
Schar suffered an injury late last season which saw Lascelles come back into the fold. Howe really rates Schar’s ability on the ball so I see Fabian keeping our captain on the bench once again.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see Botman or Pope tomorrow, especially Botman whose pre-season is deserving of a start. I just get the inkling Howe will go Dubravka and Burn in the opening match. He eased Bruno in last season and may do the same with Sven.
Howe’s midfield decision is made slightly easier with Jonjo Shelvey’s absence. The vice-captain was also sidelined down the stretch last season when Sean Longstaff got some starts.
Longstaff’s ability to play a deeper role allows Bruno to push forward. Therefore, I think Sean gets the nod over Joe Willock, who may see himself resume his super-sub role more often this season.
The front three pick themselves. Miguel Almiron has been a bright spark this summer and deserves to play on the right. He’ll have Ryan Fraser nipping at his toes which will hopefully keep Miggy’s levels high.