Relegation candidates – Newcastle could pay for lack of spark
Buoyed by winning the Championship last season, Newcastle return to the Premier League with momentum and a determination to extend their stay in the top flight.
Manager Chris Hughton has made a couple of shrewd signings, but their attacking options will need to be enhanced if they are to survive this season.
Having spent 12 frustrating years in Shay Given’s shadow, Steve Harper has emerged from the St James’ Park periphery as a solid and consistent performer.
Newcastle are 4/1 to be relegated, but if Harper can reproduce his form from last season, the Toon Army will be a difficult side to break down.
Newcastle’s success in the Championship last season was built on firm defensive foundations, with the centre-back partnership of Steven Taylor and Argentina’s Fabricio Coloccini a particular strength.
Sol Campbell is a smart free signing, and the 35-year-old England international will bring experience and assurance to an already solid backline.
Hughton has added Dan Gosling and James Perch in midfield, and the former could make a big impact following his arrival from Everton.
There is no lack of bite in the Magpies’ midfield. Joey Barton and Alan Smith are constantly harassing opponents, while Danny Guthrie is another spiky character.
In terms of creativity, Argentina’s World Cup winger Jonas Gutierrez will be a player to watch, but there is little else in terms of guile in this rather rugged squad.
Andy Carroll scored 17 league goals during Newcastle’s Championship-winning campaign, and the England Under-21 striker is priced at 80/1 to be the leading Premier League marksman this season.
The main worry for the Toon Army is the dearth of alternative striking options. Peter Lovenkrands and Leon Best enjoyed some success in the Championship, but their Premier League pedigree is questionable.
Can Newcastle get off to a flyer? They are 11/1 to beat Manchester United in their first game of the season. See the full Manchester United vs Newcastle United Match Betting Odds market.