Who will start at left-back for Newcastle United against Aston Villa?
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11: Matt Targett smiles during the Newcastle United Training session at the Newcastle United Training Centre on February 11, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

It was a Newcastle United debut to remember for Matt Targett, whose influential and disciplined performance on the left-hand side helped The Magpies record back-to-back league wins for the first time in the top-flight this season.

The 26-year-old, who joined the black-and-whites on deadline day on a loan deal until the end of the season from Aston Villa, put in an eye-catching display on his first appearance in their 3-1 win over Everton on Tuesday night in front of a boisterous St James’ Park.

But, with The Villains loanee unavailable to play against his parent club, Eddie Howe is forced into making at least one change for the visit of Steven Gerrard’s side on Sunday afternoon and faces a tough decision in deciding who Targett’s replacement will be.

Embed from Getty Images

Will Burn make his eagerly-anticipated Magpies debut?

Despite being named as a substitute in their victory over Frank Lampard’s side, a toe problem prior to the game prevented Dan Burn from making his debut with his boyhood club.

Burn, who signed a two-and-a-half-year deal, completed his move back to the North East on deadline day and became Newcastle’s fifth and final signing in the January transfer window after a £13m fee was agreed with Brighton and Hove Albion.

The 29-year-old is familiar in a number of roles as either a left-sided centre-back, left-wing back or left-back and the latter is where he played for The Seagulls on a few occasions, the most recent was an EFL Cup fourth round penalty-shootout defeat to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium back in October, though he was brought off injured at half-time. 

Interestingly, the Geordie-born defender has also played in the left-back position on Tyneside previously with former club Brighton during the 2020/21 Premier League season. 

Graham Potter’s side claimed a comfortable 3-0 win in September 2020 and one of their star players that day Tariq Lamptey had to be taken off on 58 minutes and Burn, who replaced him, slotted into the role impeccably and picked up a well-earned clean sheet. 

So it’s a role which Burn would not be fazed by and after being released by The Magpies as a youngster, the highly experienced top-flight defender is now ready and raring to go to be reunited with The Toon Army.

Manquillo to get the nod?

However, if Howe decides not to select Burn in the starting line-up, then Javier Manquillo could be the most likely alternative in replacing Targett. 

The Spaniard has made 16 appearances in all competitions for Newcastle this season and played as a left-back during the 1-1 draw at home to Manchester United and came on as a second-half sub in the 1-0 victory against Leeds United where his lung-busting run won the free-kick which led to Jonjo Shelvey’s winner. 

Manquillo has the second highest amount of assists in The Magpies squad this campaign with two, joint-level with Matt Ritchie, who is doubtful to face Villa due to a knee injury, and only Allan Saint-Maximin has more assists than the versatile full-back (three). 

While Manquillo is more of an attacking choice than Burn, would he be able to cope out wide defensively with Villa’s skilful wingers?

Embed from Getty Images

Could Dummett be in contention to start?

Another option for Newcastle if he’s available for selection in starting at left-back is Paul Dummett as the Welshman was involved in Friday’s training session.

But with only two first-team appearances so far this season, having just recovered from a serious calf injury, Howe may think it’s too big of a risk in bringing Dummett straight into the side.

Despite being more suited to the right-back and centre-back positions, Emil Krafth has only ever featured once for The Magpies on the left-hand side, though since Jamal Lewis was left out of the final 25-man squad for the second half of the season, the Sweden international would certainly be a surprising candidate. 

Whatever happens, when the team sheets are announced ahead of the 2pm kick-off, Newcastle supporters will be excited to see who Howe has chosen as Targett’s replacement.