On Saturday, Newcastle United will play a friendly match against Rayo Vallecano at St. James’ Park to round off their midseason preparations.
The Magpies recently defeated Al-Hilal in a warm-up match, while Los Franjirrojos’ most recent contest ended in a draw with Real Sociedad, another Spanish team.
Within a period of 14 months, Eddie Howe’s management and ownership with Saudi support helped Newcastle United go from a relegation contender to a top-four contender.
Around £200m has been spent on strengthening the first-team squad and the Magpies are now flying high in third place in the Premier League table after 15 matches, four points clear of Manchester United in fifth and seven points behind Arsenal at the summit.
Newcastle, who celebrated their 130th anniversary on December 9, entered the World Cup break in excellent form, having won eight of their previous nine games overall, including their last five Premier League contests.
Following a week of training in Saudi Arabia, Howe and company won a friendly match against Al-Hilal last Thursday to round off their brief stay in the Middle East. Along with Joelinton, in-form forward Miguel Almiron scored a pair of goals, while Dylan Stephenson also found the back of the net.
Newcastle will now prepare for their first game at St James’ Park since a 1-0 Premier League win over Chelsea on November 12 when they face Rayo Vallecano, and another victory this weekend would set them up nicely before they lock horns with Howe’s former club Bournemouth in the EFL Cup fourth round next Tuesday.
Bruno Guimaraes, Fabian Schar, Nick Pope, Callum Wilson, and Kieran Trippier, Newcastle’s World Cup five, are not expected to play on Saturday. The latter two were back at the training complex on Wednesday, although they only started with light gym work separate from the main group. The former three have still not returned to training.
In addition to missing training due to injury, Alexander Isak, Paul Dummett, and Emil Krafth also missed work. Chris Wood, who had a slight back injury in the victory over Al-Hilal, is questionable for Saturday.
Almiron, Dan Burn, Sean Longstaff, and Ryan Fraser, who all started on the bench the previous game, will be competing for the starting position.
Pathe Ciss, a midfielder for Rayo Vallecano who represented Senegal at the World Cup, resumed first-team practice this week and will be a candidate to play against St James’ Park.
In addition to Raul de Tomas and Sergio Camello, who are also vying for a spot up front, experienced striker Radamel Falcao, who has had brief periods at both Manchester United and Chelsea in the past, trained this week. He hasn’t played in any of Rayo’s previous three friendlies.
Newcastle United’s possible starting 4-3-3 lineup:
Karius; Manquillo, Lascelles, Burn, Lewis; Willock, Longstaff, Joelinton; Almiron, Wood, Fraser
Rayo Vallecano’s possible starting lineup:
Lopez; Mario, Santi, Lejeune, Garcia; Ciss, Valentin; Palazon, Trejo, Martin; De Tomas