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2019/20 Premier League preview - Newcastle United: Steve Bruce faces a season of struggle

Richard Jolly runs the rule over Newcastle United ahead of the new season, including key player, new signing to watch and predicted league finish

PRESTON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Steve Bruce the manager of Newcastle United reacts during a pre-season friendly match between Preston North End and Newcastle United at Deepdale on July 27, 2019 in Preston, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
PRESTON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Steve Bruce the manager of Newcastle United reacts during a pre-season friendly match between Preston North End and Newcastle United at Deepdale on July 27, 2019 in Preston, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Exit Rafa Benitez, enter Steve Bruce.

It looks a downgrade with the new manager’s problems compounded by the reality fans are annoyed owner Mike Ashley did not do more to keep their beloved Benitez and the fact he only took charge three weeks before the season started, when Newcastle had lost two key players, in Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez.

One way for Bruce to endear himself to fans would be to reduce the number of home defeats; there were 10 last season. But with Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool in the first five games, there is the potential for a bad start to put him under pressure.

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Who finishes where in 2019-20?

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Key player: Miguel Almiron

When Newcastle belatedly broke a club transfer record that had stood for 14 years, they probably expected Almiron to have opened his account by now.

But while the Paraguayan helped Rondon and Perez flourish, both are gone now and it is more important Almiron shows the eye for goal he demonstrated for Atlanta FC.

Signing to watch: Joelinton

Newcastle’s new No 9 and new club record signing, the £40 million (Dh182m) forward from Hoffenheim represents a rare statement of ambition from the club. At 22, he is one for the future, but much rests on how quickly the Brazilian, who has never scored more than eight league goals in a season, settles.

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The best summer transfers

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Talking point: Will Ashley’s risk backfire?

The Newcastle owner is looking for a formula to ensure survival while making a transfer-market profit. As United stayed up by 11 points last season, in theory they have plenty of leeway.

Yet they have lost the scorers of 26 of their 42 goals last season, meaning much will rest on what proved the best defence in the bottom half and the rookie attacker Joelinton, who may have been acquired with resale value in mind.

They have an inferior manager, and at a time when relegation rivals are strengthening. Newcastle had more talented teams in the two seasons that went down under Ashley.

Prediction: 18th

Updated: August 2, 2019 03:31 PM

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