Back to the real football after that strange Winter interlude that saw Lionel Messi score a record five World Cup penalties en route to the most rigged trophy in the tournament's near-100 year history that this author predicted would before a ball was kicked:
It was a sad sight to see the Qatar & FIFA corruption that had captured the World Cup make it onto the pitches of the tournament in such a transparent fashion but let's hope that similar dodgy decisions don't manifest now the emergent force in club football, Newcastle United face Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup Fourth Round.
The fact that the referee is one Peter Bankes, who has major previous in games against Newcastle, raises an instant red flag as he gave several key decisions against The Magpies last season from a pen in the first game of the season against West Ham to a disgraceful penalty at Leicester following a James Maddison dive so overcoming what might not be a level refereeing playing field is the club's first obstacle although I will be tipping off, as ever, anti-Corruption authorities & the police to ensure this isn't the case.
Due to the nurse's strike, the game has been brought forward 24 hours from its original Wednesday night slot to Tuesday night at 7.45pm but Eddie Howe has had the majority of his squad for the best part of a month, picking up training levels at the Saudi Arabia warm weather training camp last week when the Magpies won the Diriyah Season Cup against Saudi side Al Hilal with Brazilian Joelinton starring with two quick goals:
Man of the season so far, Miguel Almiron grabbed a second half brace and neither player featured in Newcastle's 2-1 friendly win over Rayo Vallecano on Saturday afternoon thanks to goals from Chris Wood (penalty) and a Sean Longstaff cracker:
England World Cup stars Kieron Trippier & Nick Pope were back from Qatar and in the starting line-up and got a valuable run-out ahead of what is arguably Newcastle's biggest game of the season so far in that its a big chance to progress in a Cup competition that is eminently winnable considering Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs are already out and Manchester City play Liverpool so another big team won't be in the hat for the Quarter-Finals and if Newcastle are they've got an excellent chance.
Firstly, they have to eliminate Bournemouth, who experienced their own big takeover during The World Cup when Bill Foley, the owner of Las Vegas Golden Knights - a National Hockey League club in the United States - bought the Cherries for £120M+
In a strange celebrity twist, Foley's consortium also includes A list Hollywood actor Michael B Jordan, the star of the Creed films as well as Black Panther & Fahrenheit 451:
They take over a club that is currently 14th in The Premier League table having bounced back from that 9-0 thrashing at Anfield - after which ex-Magpie Scott Parker was sacked - under new permanent Head Coach Garry O'Neill who was in caretaker charge when Bournemouth came to St James' Park in mid-September and left with a point following a 1-1 draw with an Alexander Isak striker equalising a Phillip Billing goal:
Like Newcastle, The Cherries have faced more than their fair share of dodgy decisions against them this season so lets hope the game is decided fairly whatever the result.
Eddie Howe won't be taking his former club lightly and said "Bournemouth are a very competitive team who we won't be underestimating" in his presser and spoke of the importance of the fixture underlining his and the club's commitment to Cups:
On the injury front, he revealed Callum Wilson is "fine" as is Bruno Guimaraes, Allan Saint-Maximin got a knock at Saturday's friendly so is having a late fitness test, and its a game too soon for record signing Alexander Isak but Howe is raring to get back into the swing of competitive action and "re-establish our momentum" following that excellent win against Chelsea which signed off the international break in style.
Prediction - Newcastle United 2 Bournemouth 0