Newcastle United claimed their first opening day victory in nine years when they defeated West Ham at the London Stadium last season – could they repeat the same feat at St James' Park on Sunday afternoon?
Newcastle and West Ham have met five times on the opening day previously, with the most recent fixture in the North East in the 2002/03 season, when Lomana Lua Lua, Alan Shearer and Nolberto Solano gave The Magpies a resounding 4-0 win.
Steve Bruce’s side finished 12th in the top flight last term, while West Ham turned out to be a surprise package and secured a highly impressive sixth-placed finish to ensure Europa League football will be played at the London Stadium.
There was a mixed bag of results for Newcastle in pre-season, which included wins against Doncaster Rovers, Burton Albion and Norwich City, a draw against Rotherham United and narrow defeats to York City and Burnley.
For West Ham, they ended pre-season unbeaten and must be satisfied with their performances, as they hit six past Celtic in Glasgow and won the Betway Cup for the first time since 2018 at the expense of Serie A side and Champions League outfit Atalanta.
Team news – Newcastle
Bruce confirmed in his pre-match press conference that Freddie Woodman will make his Premier League debut as Martin Dubravka remains a long-term absentee while Karl Darlow is still recovering from COVID-19.
Aside from their issues in the goalkeeping department, Paul Dummett is the only other player unavailable for selection.
Newcastle fans will have to wait until the trip to Aston Villa next weekend before they get to see their first summer signing Joe Willock in action, who signed a six-year deal from Arsenal, as the 21-year-old failed to register in time to be available for Sunday’s game.
Team news – West Ham
Angelo Ogbonna is a doubt for the trip to the North East after picking up a hamstring injury in pre-season against Celtic while Winston Reid is working his way back to fitness as the 33-year-old defender suffered a knee injury whilst on Olympic duty with New Zealand.
Newcastle completed the double over David Moyes’ side last season as two second-half goals from debutants Callum Wilson and Jeff Hendrick secured a 2-0 opening day win for The Magpies in East London in September.
The reverse fixture in April turned out to be a captivating five-goal thriller at St James’ Park as an Issa Diop own goal and a Joelinton tap-in had Newcastle firmly in control at the interval, while The Hammers were reduced to 10-men after two first-half bookings for Craig Dawson.
However, despite being two goals behind and having a numerical disadvantage, the visitors fought back and drew level with Diop making amends at the other end and Jesse Lingard’s penalty setting up a nervy finale on Tyneside, before Willock decided the contest with a thumping header which lifted Newcastle nine points above the relegation zone.
Ones to watch
Callum Wilson – Newcastle
The Magpies’ new number nine will have been delighted to see David Moyes' side as the first team to play Newcastle this season as the England striker’s goal-scoring record against West Ham is remarkable. In 10 league games against The Irons, Wilson has scored eight goals which is more than he has netted against any other side in his league career.
Saïd Benrahma – West Ham
The Algerian enjoyed a successful pre-season with The Hammers and he appeared to be oozing in confidence when he featured, with well-taken goals against Celtic and former club Brentford. The 26-year-old also starred in the Betway Cup triumph over Atalanta as the skilful winger set up both goals for Michail Antonio and Pablo Fornals.
Newcastle United: Woodman, Murphy, Lascelles, Fernández, Clark, Ritchie, Hayden, Saint-Maximin, Almirón, Joelinton, Wilson
West Ham: Areola, Coufal, Diop, Dawson, Cresswell, Rice, Soucek, Fornals, Yarmolenko, Benrahma, Antonio
Where to watch the game
Sky Sports Main Event/Sky Sports Premier League - 14:00 BST - 15/08/2021