Newcastle will be without Sven Botman in Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup tie at Manchester United and the £35m Netherlands defender could be absent for some time.
Botman has not played since sustaining a knee injury in September’s 8-0 win at Sheffield United and Eddie Howe did not reject suggestions that the centre-half may be sidelined long-term. “There’s an issue there and we’re working through various options to try to diagnose the exact problem,” he said. “We’re still waiting for clarity on what is happening.”
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With Alexander Isak, Harvey Barnes and Jacob Murphy also on the injury list, while Sandro Tonali has now begun a 10-month ban imposed for breaching betting regulations, Newcastle’s squad is looking stretched. There are gaps emerging all over the pitch but, perhaps most pertinently, in attack where Isak and Callum Wilson are the only specialist centre-forwards but the latter’s injury history dictates that his playing time has to be carefully managed.
Wilson will almost certainly be rested at Old Trafford where Howe may field the winger Anthony Gordon in a central attacking role or, possibly, move Joelinton from midfield to his former position as Newcastle seek revenge for last season’s League Cup final defeat.
“We just didn’t have the resources to sign a third striker in the summer,” said Howe, whose transfer market activities are restricted by the need to meet financial fair play regulations.
He said he was unable to discuss Tonali as Newcastle are still waiting to learn the precise terms of the midfielder’s suspension from Fifa. “Sandro’s here but he has not trained with the group yet because we’re still awaiting that clarity [as to whether Tonali will be allowed to train with the squad].”
With Newcastle facing a tough Premier League home game against Arsenal on Saturday before a taxing Champions League assignment at Dortmund next Tuesday, the starting XI seems set to be heavily refreshed at Old Trafford where an altered formation could also be used.
“We have to get that balance right between changing and sticking with what we know so the players have the best platform to perform,” said Howe. “We train and play in a certain way regularly. There’s certainly been discussions about what we do.”
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Erik ten Hag has criticised Newcastle’s penchant for time-wasting but Howe said Manchester United’s manager had got things wrong. “That’s not been our intention,” he said. “Our intention has been to play the game as we feel it should be played. We feel we’re a high-energy, high-tempo team. We want the ball in play. We want quick games.
“We want to try and entertain so there’s no part of us that goes into the game in a negative frame of mind. A lot was made of our game management last year and I felt it was falsely reported. The stats may say something slightly different but if you watched us play, you would have seen a different style to the one that was painted in certain areas of the media.”