Eddie Howe says Sven Botman is “ready” to start for Newcastle United against Nottingham Forest.
But the Magpies head coach continues to keep everybody guessing over his team selection for this afternoon’s Premier League opener at St James’ Park.
The £35million summer signing from Lille impressed immediately in pre-season but there are no guarantees over a starting spot quite yet.
Dan Burn, Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar, also vying for starts, were all handed equal minutes during United’s friendly matches.
Only time will tell how Howe manages Botman’s introduction. Plenty have drawn comparisons to what the 44-year-old did with Bruno Guimaraes, whose first five appearances came as a substitute.
But will Howe give into temptation and start the Netherlands under-21s international from the off?
“I think he’s ready to play,” Howe admitted. “You’ll have seen during pre-season what a talent he is. He’s going to be everything we hoped he would be.
“Technically, he’s very good, very, very strong physically, very good defensively.
“We look at every player individually and try and make the right call for them and the team.
“What I do, you’ll find out but I’ve been so pleased with his signing.”
The centre-back pairing is just one of a number of tough selection calls Howe is facing, including who starts in goal between Nick Pope and Martin Dubravka.
Whatever Howe decides, he plans to communicate his approach to the players via one-to-one conversations.
Howe said: “I’ll always speak to the players. Big decisions always need to be communicated I believe.
“If you can give players an insight into your decision, not necessarily too much detail around it but certainly the key reasons and why you’ve made the call can only benefit you and them.”