15 mins: Newcastle enter the box with a long curling ball from Shelvey to Wood, but they can’t do anything with it. So far they have only been possession and no pants.
13 mins: Another man down! It’s Joao Moutinho, who receives a boot under the armpit. He seems to be fine.
11 minutes: Fabio Silva does well to win a 50-50 down the halfway line, and it looks like Wolves will surge forward, but the next pass is sloppy, straight out of play.
Fraser is down again and he leaves, to be replaced by Miguel Almiron.
9 minutes: Ryan Fraser goes down with an injury off the ball and catches the physio’s attention. To my untrained eye, it looks like a hamstring.
8 minutes: Newcastle get more ball now, with Wolves sitting back, waiting for the moment to counter. When Newcastle win a free kick and send the ball into the box, Wolves clear comfortably.
6 minutes: José Sá is brutally awakened by a long diagonal cross from Matt Targett and a dazzling run from Chris Wood. Sa greets the ball with a punch, and it’s very impactful.
4 minutes: It was Wolves’ turn to press as Shelvey trailed in midfield. Their first attack ends with a long ball that goes for a goal kick.
2 minutes : Wolves have most of the first possession, but barely come out of their own half as Newcastle press.
The players enter the field, and the knee.
As Hey Jude rings, a camera enters the tunnel. The guy who catches the eye is José Sá – leaning against the wall, so relaxed he’s almost asleep.
Look away now if you’re saving England’s World Cup qualifier in North Macedonia for later. Spoiler alert: the Lionesses are returning. Follow our MBM here with Sarah Riddell.
Wolves, by the way, also have to play the big two. Their fixture list is much like Newcastle’s, except with one game less and a date yet to be decided – the game against Man City which will no longer take place next weekend.
In full: Burnley (a), Brighton (h), Chelsea (a), Norwich (h), City (h), Liverpool (a).
“Difficult,” replies Bruno Lage when asked what kind of match he expects. “Newcastle are a tough team to play against, especially since January, new manager, new players. I watched their last two games and they were very good.
And yes, it includes the 5-1 loss at Spurs. “No matter the outcome, [I just care] on performance.
An email! From the indefatigable Peter Oh. “Your post ‘Two for Wolves too’ gave me a strange throwback,” he says, “to the 1987 movie Teen Wolf Too.
“Speaking of teen wolves, I see young whippersnapper Luke Cundle is in the visitors’ starting lineup.” He is making, I think, his second league start, following the resounding victory at Spurs in February. He makes the most of his adolescence, which ends on April 26.
Newcastle are seven points above the bottom three. Jamie Carragher thinks they’re safe, but Eddie Howe isn’t so sure. “For me there is always a threat of relegation,” he said. “And I’m sure the players have the same mentality as me – I’ve tried to make them understand that. We have to finish the job and we have a series of difficult meetings at the end of the season. It’s vital that we get something something tonight and we change our momentum.
These devices are an interesting mix, ranging from three of the current top five to two of the latest three. In full: Leicester (h), Palace (h), Norwich (a), Liverpool (h), Man City (a), Arsenal (h), Burnley (a).
Bruno Lage also makes two changes, dropping Dendoncker and Podence and bringing in Luke Cundle and Hee-Chan Hwang, who scored both Wolves’ goals in the 2-1 reverse leg win.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (possible 3-4-3): HER ; Boly, Coady, Kilman; Jonny, Cundle, Moutinho, Marcal; Trincão, Fabio Silva, Hwang.
Subtitles: Ruddy, Alt-Nouri, Mosquera, Semedo, Toti, Saiss, Campbell, Neto, Chiquinho.
Eddie Howe must not have been too furious with the XI that lost to Spurs as he kept faith with nine of them. He is without Joe Willock, so he brings in Bruno Guimaraes in midfield, and he also replaces Javier Manquillo with Emil Krafth at right-back.
Newcastle (possible 4-3-3): Dubravka; Krafth, Burn, Schar, Targett; Guimaraes, Shelvey, Joelinton; Fraser, Bois, Saint-Maximin.
Subtitles: Darlow, Dummett, Lascelles, Manquillo, Ritchie, Murphy, Longstaff, Almiron, Gayle.
Evening everyone and welcome to the first game of an exciting Premier League weekend. Whether this will be a fascinating match remains to be seen. But it’s a Friday night in Newcastle, so a lot of people are going to be making a lot of noise without wearing a lot of clothes. And these two clubs have something to play for.
The wolves, after a wavering, are back among the contenders for Europa This or Europa That. In last month’s Premier League table, they sit third, behind Spurs and Liverpool on goal difference alone. And this despite having to do without Raul Jimenez and Ruben Neves.
Newcastle enters this game from the other direction – the doldrums. After enjoying a big rebound from new manager under Eddie Howe, they walked away and lost their last three games, culminating in a 5-1 thrashing at Spurs last weekend. But all those defeats happened on the road. This is their chance to show their own fans that they didn’t turn back time until last fall.
Kick-off is at 8 p.m., and I’ll be back shortly after 7 p.m. with the teams.