What to watch for in Newcastle’s 2020/21 season opener vs. West Ham

Allan Saint-Maximin of Newcastle. (Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images)
Allan Saint-Maximin of Newcastle. (Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images) /

Newcastle United get their Premier League campaign underway tomorrow vs. West Ham United.

After an abbreviated offseason, Newcastle United will welcome back Premier League action tomorrow when they face West Ham United at London Stadium. Kickoff is set for 8 PM local time. Let’s take a look at a few of the storylines to pay attention to for the Magpies in the season opener.

Darlow between the sticks

Since Martin Dubravka arrived on Tyneside, there has never been a Premier League that he didn’t start. With him missing the start of the season due to a heel injury, Newcastle United’s security blanket is gone. Stepping in at goalkeeper will be Karl Darlow. He does have Premier League experience and has been with the club since 2014.

But, he’s nowhere near the quality of Dubravka and is prone to massive mistakes in goal. West Ham United would be wise to test him early and there will definitely be some nervy moments, but we will see if Darlow can impress after inking a new contract extension today.

The Newcomers

It would be surprising to see Ryan Fraser because he hasn’t played since before Project Restart. But, I’d anticipate we get both Callum Wilson and Jamal Lewis in the starting XI at striker and left-back respectively. Jeff Hendrick could also find himself in the mix in central midfield.

Expectations are high for Wilson, especially with his previous form vs. the Hammers, and an opening day goal would be massive for his confidence and the excitement of the Toon Army. As the only true left-back on the roster, Lewis should get the nod if he’s fit and adjusted to the squad. His pace and aggressiveness will be welcome as he likely combines with Allan Saint-Maximin.

Miggy & Saint-Maximin

Last season, especially in the first matchup, Miguel Almiron and Saint-Maximin terrorized the West Ham defenders. They were in top form with their dribbling and pace out wide and opened things up on the counter. Almiron scored in the second fixture vs. the Hammers and both players had close chances in the first match.

Tomorrow, it will be interesting to see how the West Ham defenders fare against the explosive duo, who have more time with the club under their belts. If they can get out and run the ball forward, multiple goals should be on the way for Newcastle United.

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Quick Kicks

  • Florian Lejeune left the club on loan to Alaves for the season. It appears there will be more moves likely in central defense as we move into the beginning of the season.
  • With no Fraser expected on the wing, it will likely be either Jacob Murphy, who impressed in the preseason, or Matt Ritchie, who seems to be staying put, playing opposite ASM.
  • In addition to Darlow’s new deal, Isaac Hayden signed an extension today. After requesting a move away from the club before last season, Steve Bruce has seemingly convinced the physical holding midfielder that Tyneside is the best place for him.
  • A win tomorrow would be a massive achievement based on previous season openers. The Magpies have lost four straight openers and their last win on opening day came back in August 2012 when Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa secured Newcastle a victory over Spurs.