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We kicked off our Premier League season with three home games but we are now in a week that sees us play three successive away games which started at Salford on Tuesday and now moves up to Tyneside and our league game against Newcastle tomorrow.

We go into tomorrow’s game in 19th place in the table and I suppose we have Newcastle to thank for not currently being bottom. That’s where we were after last Saturday’s defeat to Manchester United. Only a defeat of six or more for Sheffield United at home to Newcastle could see them drop behind us and they did just that with Newcastle winning 8-0.

It’s a doubled edged sword of course. It means we take on a Newcastle team who are very much in form and they followed that with a League Cup victory against Manchester City.

The start to the season continues to be difficult for us with just one point won from five games and that at Nottingham Forest in what is our only away game to date. I thought the concerns were building after the Spurs defeat but there has been a huge improvement over the past two games in terms of performances.

That started at Nottingham Forest where we would surely have won but for referee Robert Jones and his partner in crime Darren England on VAR. We couldn’t point fingers at the officials last week but the performance against Manchester United deserved so much more than the 1-0 defeat we had to take from it.

Having conceded eleven goals in the first three games, just two more have gone into our net in the last two and that’s been good news for new goalkeeper James Trafford who has been an ever present in the league team.

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Speaking yesterday, Trafford said: “We believe in ourselves and the team we have here to put a strong performance in. We just need to show that this weekend. From the opening game against City a few weeks ago to now, there is big progress and I think you can see that in the last few performances.

“We have played well in the last three games. We got the point at Forest, which on another day could have been a win. I thought we played well against Manchester United and we were unfortunate just not to score, especially after a strong first half. There’s a lot of strong ability and talent within the group and things are starting to click for us on and off the pitch.”

Trafford sat and watched the win at Salford from the bench but is expected to return tomorrow but there were definitely a number of players who played in that League Cup win who will have given manager Vincent Kompany plenty of food for thought.

We do have a number of players unavailable. All of Darko Churlinov, Hjalmar Ekdal and Michael Obafemi remain out with long term injuries while Lyle Foster will serve the last of his three match suspension. Nathan Redmond’s injury was confirmed yesterday. He’s expected to be out until after the next international break as is Manuel Benson who came off at Salford with an ankle injury. Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson suffered an injury last week but there has been no indication that he will be out of contention.

Our team for the last league game was: James Trafford, Connor Roberts, Ameen Al-Dakhil, Jordan Beyer, Charlie Taylor, Josh Cullen, Josh Brownhill, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, Aaron Ramsey, Luca Koleosho, Zeki Amdouni. Subs: Arijanet Muric, Hannes Delcroix, Jack Cork, Sander Berge, Manuel Benson, Mike Trésor, Jacob Bruun Larsen, Anass Zaroury, Jay Rodriguez.

Our opponents Newcastle have, generally, been battling against relegation in the six seasons we’ve played them in the Premier League, although it was they who relegated us in 2022 when they won 2-1 at the Turf on the final day of the season.

Things have changed there since. Last season they reached the final of the League Cup, losing that final 2-0 against Manchester United, but they also ended the season in fourth place in the Premier League and were able to win a Champions League spot this season which has rewarded them with games against Borussia Dortmund, Milan and Paris St-Germain. They’ve played the first of them and drew 0-0 against Milan at the San Siro.

In the league, they turned in an outstanding display in their opening game when Villa travelled to Newcastle. They won that one 5-1 and looked outstanding so it was perhaps a surprise that they lost the next three although, in fairness, their opponents were Manchester City, Liverpool and Brighton.

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Since, they’ve won two league games against Brentford and Sheffield United and beat Manchester City in the League Cup to add to that draw in Milan. They haven’t conceded a single goal in those four games. I think it’s fair to say the goals have been spread too with eight different scorers in that 8-0 win.

They will be without summer signing Harvey Barnes tomorrow. He suffered a bad injury at Sheffield United but that’s when they brought on Anthony Gordon (pictured above) who turned the game in their favour. Alexander Isak and Sven Botman are being monitored as is Callum Wilson who has a tight hamstring.

Bruno Guimarães is expected to be fit having had an ankle issue and Dan Burn is available after overcoming illness but both Joe Willock and Emil Krafth remain sidelined although Krafth is expected to play an under-21 game this weekend.

Their team at Bramall Lane last Sunday was: Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier, Fabian Schär, Sven Botman, Dan Burn, Sean Longstaff, Bruno Guimarães, Elliot Anderson, Miguel Almirón, Callum Wilson, Harvey Barnes. Subs: Martin Dúbravka, Jamaal Lascelles, Sandro Tonali, Anthony Gordon, Matt Targett, Alexander Isak, Lewis Hall, Tino Livramento, Jacob Murphy.




Things couldn’t be more different at Newcastle than on our last visit in December 2021. We went into the game in 18th place in the table. We were above Norwich on goal difference with both of us three points clear of Newcastle who hadn’t won a single game from fourteen played.

Without ever inspiring, we were the better of the two sides but we just couldn’t get that goal which I’m sure would have then seen us go on to win the game. Then, five minutes before half time, disaster struck when Nick Pope came to claim a Joe Willock cross, grabbed it, lost possession and it fell for Callum Wilson to hit a rising shot into the net.

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Even then, we should have been level at half time when Matt Lowton set up Matěj Vydra who really should have scored; he made a real mess of the chance.

The second half was a drab affair although we did have a goal chalked out. Jay Rodriguez scored but turned to see the assistant referee flagging for offside.

We were still above Newcastle, who celebrated as if they’d won the league, and with a game in hand. It would be February before Newcastle climbed out of the bottom three, never to return.

The teams were;

Newcastle: Martin Dúbravka, Javier Manquillo, Fabian Schär, Jamaal Lascelles, Jamal Lewis, Miguel Almirón (Federico Fernández 85), Jonjo Shelvey, Joe Willock, Allan Saint-Maximin (Jacob Murphy 90+1), Callum Wilson, Joelinton. Subs not used: Karl Darlow, Emil Krafth, Matt Ritchie, Jeff Hendrick, Isaac Hayden, Sean Longstaff, Dwight Gayle.

Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton (Connor Roberts 75), Nathan Collins, James Tarkowski, Charlie Taylor, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson (Jay Rodriguez 80), Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil, Chris Wood, Maxwel Cornet (Matěj Vydra 32). Subs not used: Wayne Hennessey, Kevin Long, Bobby Thomas, Erik Pieters, Jack Cork, Aaron Lennon.

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