Newcastle United are back to winning ways after a 2-1 win against Wolves at the weekend thanks largely to Alexander Isak's electric performance up front with the Sweden international opening the scoring with his fourth goal for The Magpies and demonstrating with a superlative all-round display why the club paid £60M+ for him.
The Sweden striker will miss Newcastle's warm weather training camp to Dubai during the international break having received his customary call-up to the Sweden squad after showing he is fit again at St James' Park on Sunday after picking up a hamstring injury on his last trip away with Janne Anderson's men.
He and everyone in Newcastle will be hoping he comes back from that squad fit and raring to go again on the back of a win against Nottingham Forest on Friday night which would represent The Magpies' first back-to-back Premier League wins since November against Southampton then Chelsea although Eddie Howe's men have enjoyed two wins in a row twice in 2023 including The Carabao Cup run and victories in that competition.
With the top of The Premier League becoming tighter and the race for the European places and especially The Champions League spot Newcastle covet hotting up, Howe will be hoping that Isak can prove as much of a focal point and regular goalscorer as Papiss Cisse did to spectacular affect in 2012 to fire The Magpies to a 5th place finish and Howe has been open about Newcastle's ambitions and the Newcastle manager saw the Wolves win as a "key moment" in the season:
Howe was keen to pay tribute to matchwinner Miguel Almiron, who is having a fantastic best-ever Premier League season having scored 11 goals so far and stepped off the bench to score his 4th winning goal of the 2022/23:
Newcastle will have to maintain positive momentum pretty much from now until the end of the season with Spurs and Man United determined to finish in the top 4 spots although both have to come to St James' Park to face Howe's hungry Magpies so both can be caught with games in hand and those huge six-pointers and once Newcastle get going under Howe then long winning runs have been a feature of his reign so far:
Forest Still Fighting Relegation
Friday's opponents Nottingham Forest are very much involved in The Premier League's basement battle to avoid the dreaded drop despite hauling themselves impressively off the very bottom of the table where they dwelt for the early part of the season but Steve Cooper and his numerous band of signings have turned their season around although crunch time is the final straight of the season.
One of those signing is long-serving Newcastle midfielder JonJo Shelvey with the ex-Magpies playmaker making a surprise switch to The City Ground in January after 7 years on Tyneside, a move which Eddie Howe admits was not one ideally he wanted to sanction but did so after the 31 year-old pleaded for a fresh start at Forest knowing he had fallen behind in the midfield pecking order at St James' Park:
Shelvey's former midfield partner in crime at Newcastle Geordie Jack Colback is also as The City Ground and scored one of the goals of last season against Steve Bruce's WBA and will be relishing the chance to play against his hometown club:
Yet one former Newcastle face now at Notts Forest who won't be able to play in Friday's encounter is striker Chris Wood, whose loan to The City Ground in January forbids him from playing against his parent club even though his appearances for Forest have triggered a permanent transfer in the summer:
Wood is injured as well as ineligible as Steve Cooper explained in his presser:
'"Chris wouldn't have been able to play through injury. But at the same time, he wouldn't have been eligible to play because of the registration of the loan.'"
In Wood's absence, Forest have somewhat of a striker shortage with £20M striker Taiwo Awoniyi already ruled out & top goalscorer Brennan Johnson facing a late injury test:
"Brennan has had a scan. It's unlikely [he] will be involved at the weekend, but there's a small chance, and we want to give him every chance to see if he is available."
Wayne Hennessey is also having a late fitness test amid a general Forest injury crisis with defender Wily Boly ruled out for the season, star goalkeeper Dean Henderson on loan from Man United missing along with Cheikhou Kouyate, Scott McKenna, Giulian Biancone and Omar Richards while influential midfielder Gustavo Scarpa is missing through personal reasons after losing £1M in a Crypto scam:
Yet manager Cooper remains upbeat going into the game looking forward to it and will be hoping for just a third Forest win of 2023 and to arrest a 5-game sequence without a victory in the circumstances of that injury adversity:
Eddie Howe, in his presser spoke of his intention to go into the international break on a winning high which would set Newcastle up for the last stretch of the season:
The Newcastle manager paid tribute to the vital role that ex-players now on Forest's books JonJo Shelvey and Chris Wood played in keeping The Magpies up last season:
And Howe hailed the impact of Joe Willock, who he believes should be aiming for the England squad:
and the main man Alexander Isak, who has set a new "benchmark" by his superb performance against Wolves and his challenge is to keep hitting those heights:
Its all to play for at The City Ground and I expect a confident Newcastle to score some goals and win all three points to set up a thrilling Champions League charge and put an injury-hit Forest right back into the relegation mire before the international break.
Prediction - Notts Forest 1 Newcastle 3