Newcastle United face Leeds United at St. James' Park on Friday night with both teams still searching for their first win of the new Premier League season in Gameweek 4 with Leeds having drawn two and lost two and Newcastle lost three & drawn just one game.
After seeing the first three games of the season decided by VAR decisions against The Magpies, Newcastle were up against arguably the best player in the world Cristiano Ronaldo making his second debut for a Manchester United side who spent £100M in the summer after finishing runners-up last season but despite a 4-1 victory that flattered the homeside, Geordie legend Alan Shearer like Bruce took many positives from a good performance that was ultimately undone by Ronaldo's brilliance & poor goalkeeping.
Fit again Karl Darlow must start in goal in a game Newcastle must win to kickstart the season and finally take home all three points after threatening to do so against both West Ham and Southampton before crucial penalties:
Both Steve Bruce and Marcel Bielsa, who guided The Whites to an impressive ninth spot last season in their first Premier League campaign since 2004, will be desperate to win the game in a fixture in which Leeds triumphed twice last season, beating Newcastle 5-2 at Elland Road and 2-1 at St. James' Park.
Such is football's instant judgement culture, already questions are being asked if Leeds are suffering 'Second Season syndrome' and are perhaps destined for the fate of Sheffield United, who took the Premier League by storm in their 2019/20 campaign finishing 9th as Leeds did last year but were ignominiously relegated the season after especially as last season was played behind closed doors in more artificial conditions.
Newcastle will play against a makeshift Leeds defence on Friday night after the red card given to Pascal Struijk for his ankle-dislocating challenge on Liverpool's Harvey Elliot on Sunday at Elland Road was upheld by a FA panel, which exacerbates Leeds' problems at the back caused by injuries to Diego Llorente and Robin Koch, leaving Whites Captain Liam Cooper as the only recognised fit centre half available to Bielsa.
Bruce finds himself in the firing line after his slowest start to a season as Newcastle manager with one point from the opening 12, although calls for his dismissal are premature as he has the same point predecessor Rafa Benitez had after four matches in the 2018-9 season on his way to the worst start in the 129-year history of the club.
Bruce, facing the press for the first time since accusing The Newcastle Chronicle of negatively stirring the Newcastle fanbase against him at Old Trafford following the defeat by Manchester United, reiterated his assertion he would "never walk away from the job" and that he has the "experience" to turn it around.
Confirming everyone who played at Old Trafford was available for selection again after slight doubts over Joe Willock after a knock, the Leeds match comes too quickly for a trio of Newcastle stars Callum Wilson, JonJo Shelvey and Paul Dummett,
all three of whom would have played if fit yet Newcastle have the players to get the job done regardless especially bolstered by the return to training of Ryan Fraser.
With Callum Wilson out, who leads the Newcastle team up front is Bruce's big decision with calls for Dwight Gayle to replace Joelinton, who had another very good game at Old Trafford at the weekend warming David De Gea's hands after a fine dribble & shot and proving the useful outlet he always is for Newcastle especially away from home.
Last season, Joelinton's substitution at Elland Road with the match level at 2-2 preceded Newcastle's collapse as Leeds ran out 5-2 winners after he left the pitch and it was in the big Brazilian's absence that what he brings to the team - hold-up play, physical & aerial strength, passing, dribbling & ball retention - was most noticeable as the ball no longer stuck in Leeds' half to a Wilson-Gayle forward line.
Joelinton didn't feature in the away game but Gayle did as a sub in both games making negligible impact although might thrive more alongside Joelinton, who has looked his best as a second striker linking midfield and attack and in partnership with Wilson in the rare times they have led the line directly together:
A late Friday night kick off with some fans protesting against The Premier League's corrupt blocking of a legitimate Saudi Arabian takeover could make for a toxic atmosphere so its important Newcastle start the game well and on the front foot and with Leeds defence weakened, The Magpies must go for the jugular - and win.
Prediction - Newcastle 3 Leeds 2