Newcastle United consider unleashing 'quality' player v Brighton after five months out

Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Newcastle United have been bolstered by the return of some key players in recent matches.

Despite all the trials and tribulations suffered by Newcastle United this season, they head into the final three games in the driving seat for a Premier League top six finish.

Such achievement didn’t seem possible just under two months ago but since returning from the March international break, the Magpies have collected 16 points from a possible 21 with only Crystal Palace beating them. Rising from 10th to sixth in the table, Eddie Howe’s side have hit form at the right time.

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And Newcastle are also welcoming back key players at a convenient time. Last weekend’s 4-1 win at Burnley saw Joelinton, Miguel Almiron and Nick Pope return to the matchday squad, while Kieran Trippier could make his comeback against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday afternoon.

Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Joelinton and Almiron were introduced for the final quarter of an hour at Turf Moor and will likely be used in same capacity against Brighton after Howe spoke about managing their load, particularly the Brazilian’s after four months out. But of course, a goalkeeper’s situation is different to an outfield player (you rarely see a goalie subbed on!) and if Pope is fit, then he must start this weekend.

For all the constant talk of injuries and which players Newcastle have missed the most, Pope is perhaps the obvious answer. Prior to the 32-year-old’s shoulder injury on December 2, United had conceded just 14 goals in 14 league games. In the 21 games since - 20 of which Martin Dubravka has played - 42 goals have been shipped, taking the average from one conceded a game to two. In terms of clean sheets, Pope has kept six compared to Dubravka’s four.

Now, that isn’t necessarily a full reflection on Dubravka, who many might argue has performed well in Pope’s absence, but those statistics are a clear indication of how much Newcastle have missed their England goalkeeper.

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Truth is, team selection is one of the most ruthless parts of football, and dropping Dubravka is harsh. But Pope has been Newcastle’s No.1 goalkeeper since he walked through the door in June 2022, and hasn’t suddenly changed.

With Brighton, Manchester United and Brentford to play in the final week of the campaign, the Magpies have everything to play for. Securing European football for the second successive year is no easy feat and the return of key players could go a long to way to getting the club over the line.

And there is, of course, the England factor for Pope. With Crystal Palace’s Sam Johnstone injured for a lengthy period, a spot below Jordan Pickford and Aaron Ramsdale has opened up in Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2024 squad.

The former Burnley goalkeeper will be chomping at the bit to get back in-between the sticks, and no one should criticise Howe if he does indeed reinstate him this weekend.

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