It’s finally here. The start of the Championship season is about to dawn on the Geordies. With 46 games to participate it, this season promises to a wild journey for the Magpies, but a one they hope will end in success – promotion back to the Premier League.
Newcastle United head into the game after going undefeated in pre-season with four wins and one draw. And if the Magpies want to continue the early season momentum gained, they will have to come through a strong test down in the capital.
With the positivity and excitement that has surrounded the North East club in pre-season due to Rafael Benitez’s continued presence, there will no doubt be a few nerves kicking in ahead of the 7:45pm kick-off at Fulham.
Past meetings at Craven Cottage
United have not won at the Cottage since December 2007 when a late Joey Barton penalty sealed a 1-0 win.
Since then, the club’s have met five times in South West London with the Geordies losing all five games. The last of those was a 1-0 victory for Fulham in March 2014, while the most memorable of the games was a thrilling 5-2 result for the hosts back in January 2012.
As aforementioned, Newcastle have enjoyed a strong pre-season and come into this game off the back of three wins in a row.
Fulham themselves have had a strong pre-season, with wins against Brighton and Hove Albion and Crystal Palace and only one defeat.
The latter victory against the Premier League side was their latest result, ending a run of two winless games after a loss to Real Betis and a draw with CD Nacional.
If the two can take anything from the summer, it's confidence, and a whole lot of it.
Expected starting 11 for Newcastle
Benitez provided a slight insight to the team his will choose against Fulham in the home friendly win over Vitesse.
The new number nine Dwight Gayle will start upfront, with strike-partner Aleksander Mitrovic banned for the first four games of season following his red card on the final day of last season.
In goal, Benitez is likely to choose Matz Sels over Karl Darlow with the Belgium keeper completing a full 90 minutes against Vitesse on last Saturday.
Daryl Janmaat remains at the club and is expected to beat competition from Jamie Sterry and Jesus Gamez for his place. Club captain Jamaal Lascelles could form a partnership with Grant Hanley at the heart of the defense as Chancel Mbemba is doubt.
The 56-year-old is wary of the threat Fulham carry having studied the London-side over pre-season. Benitez isn’t expected to name an attacking-side as a five-man midfield may be formed with Jack Colback, Isaac Hayden and Vurnon Anita occupying the central role.
Matt Ritchie and Ayoze Perez will start on the wings but will expected to do a defensive job.