Newcastle United vs Sheffield United preview: Magpies look to make the Blades blunt
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Jack O'Connell of Sheffield United in action with Isaac Hayden of Newcastle United during the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Newcastle United at Bramall Lane on December 05, 2019 in Sheffield, United Kingdom. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

Newcastle United are looking to complete a Premier League double over Sheffield United, as the Magpies gear up for their first competitive game in almost four months.

When proceedings kick-off at St James' Park on Sunday, 107 days will have passed since Premier League football came to a standstill for Newcastle.

Proceedings off the field have ensured the Magpies supporters have not gone through a mundane phase following their team during these unprecedented times.

The takeover saga, the ticket refund situation, and the state of affairs regarding Matty Longstaff's new contract are just some of the stories that Newcastle fans have had to digest over the past few months.

The return of Newcastle United to the football pitch is a welcome distraction for the supporters and something every Toon fan will be excited for.

The Magpies have attempted to get up to full match fitness by hosting two friendlies in anticipation of the restart, against Middlesbrough and Hull City.

It is no doubt Newcastle will lack match fitness due to their competitive inactivity, but most teams will be in the same boat.

The Magpies are currently on 35 points and it seems a win in this game would almost secure Premier League football for another season.

Their opponents in Sheffield United are likely to have the upper hand when it comes to match fitness, as they restarted their season on Wednesday evening.

The Blades drew 0-0 against Aston Villa in a game that was not a classic on the pitch, but very memorable off it.

The South Yorkshire club was denied a goal after referee Michael Oliver's watch did not signal Oliver Norwood's free-kick had crossed the line, even though it seemed to have been well over it.

Footage showed Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nyland clutching the ball over the line, but the goal was not given.

The result at Villa Park left Sheffield United four points off the Champions League places, so a win at Newcastle is vital in their quest for European qualification.

Form

Prior to the restart, Newcastle had just won one of their last five Premier League games, with that victory coming in their last match against Southampton. (DLLDW)

In preparation for the return to competitive football, the Magpies defeated Middlesbrough 3-2 and then seen off Hull City in a 2-0 win a few days later.

Coming off that disappointing result against Aston Villa, Sheffield United are unbeaten in their last five Premier League games. (WWDWD)

The Blades, like Newcastle, played against Hull City in a friendly as part of their restart preparation.

Sheffield United defeated the Tigers 4-0, with John Lundstram, John Fleck and Richairo Zivkovic on the scoresheet.

It is rumoured that the Blades also played Barnsley and Huddersfield Town before restarting their Premier League campaign, but those results were never confirmed by any of the clubs involved.

Previous meeting

Newcastle got the better of Sheffield United in the reverse fixture at Bramall Lane, recording a 2-0 win.

The deadlock was broken in the December clash by Allan Saint-Maximin, when he headed home just 15 minutes into the game.

Jonjo Shelvey secured all three points for the Magpies on 70 minutes, with a bizarre goal where the linesman's flag was raised for offside initially, but VAR overturned the decision and gave the goal. 

Team news - Newcastle United

Martin Dubravka, Andy Carroll, Ciaran Clark and Emil Krafth are all available for Newcastle again after picking up injuries prior to the Premier League being paused in March.

Paul Dummett is fully fit after recovering from a tendon injury, but the defender is unavailable to play in the Premier League for the rest of the season after being unregistered from the Magpies’ 25-man squad.

Matty Longstaff is ruled out for Sunday's clash with a thigh injury. The 20-year-old, who has been linked with a summer move to Italian side Udinese, missed both friendly matches against Middlesbrough and Hull.

Sean Longstaff, like his younger brother, missed both friendly games as part of the Magpies restart. Manager Steve Bruce is hopeful that the midfielder will fully recover from a slight strain to be available on Sunday, however.

Matt Ritchie is an injury doubt, with a knock picked up in training.

Dwight Gayle is also a doubt for the weekend's game, suffering from a knee injury. 

Team news - Sheffield United

Manager Chris Wilder is hopeful that John Fleck will return to the side on Sunday after the midfielder missed Wednesday night’s game against Aston Villa with a contact injury.

Defender Jack O’Connell is set to make the bench for the game at St James Parkafter suffering a knee injury that kept him out of the midweek match.

David McGoldrick will be in contention for Sunday, after recovering from a knock.

Key players

Newcastle's mercurial winger Allan Saint-Maximin's raw pace and skillful ability make him a nightmare for most defenders.

A matchup against Blades full-back George Baldock is something that he will relish, after scoring in the reverse fixture.

Sheffield United's loanee goalkeeper Dean Henderson has been one of many standout performers for the South Yorkshire club this season.

Newcastle's lack of goalscoring firepower met with Henderson's current form, is set to make it a tough afternoon for the Magpies in front of goal.

Predicted line-ups

Newcastle United: Dubravka; Manquillo, Lascelles, Fernandez, Rose; Shelvey, Hayden; Lazaro, Almiron, Saint-Maximin; Joelinton. (4-2-3-1)

Sheffield United: Henderson; Baldock, Basham, Egan, Robinson, Stevens; Fleck, Norwood, Lundstram; McBurnie, Sharp. (5-3-2)

Where to watch the game

Sky Sports Main Event/Premier League (UK) - 14:00 BST - 21/06/20

Pick (UK) - 14:00 BST - 21/06/20

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