Newcastle aiming for Europe, and they can do it

What can I say about Newcastle that Ed Harrison hasn’t already said?

They’ve bought well and in Sam Allardyce they have the tactical and motivational leader who can surely do better than he did at Bolton considering the resources available to him.

The two things I’m still concerned with are the injuries, which have hit Newcastle the hardest (again) in pre-season, and the unproven nature of the Newcastle defense.

Until Newcastle solve their injury situation they cannot even think about challenging the top 4 – but they are good enough for a top-8 spot, although they still need some luck with the injuries.

Manager Status: Newcastle fans have high expectations but they are also tolerant and optimistic, so I’d expect Big Sam to be safe this season and the next. The pressure is on him to deliver European football though.

Transfer Analysis: So far I’ve been impressed with Newcastle’s transfer strategy – Big Sam has brought in the right players and offloaded the excess luggage. You’d expect Newcastle to sign at least one more defender but right now they look set for a top-10 finish at the very least, and quite capable of qualifying for the Uefa Cup.

Players to watch: Joey Barton has a lot to prove but I think Milner, Taylor, Owen (if he’s fit) and Rozehnal will have a much greater impact on Newcastle’s season.

August Fixtures: Newcastle United travel to the Reebok to take on Bolton on Saturday, then play Aston Villa at home and Middlesbrough away. 9 points are possible but with Newcastle’s history simply avoiding defeat in the two away games will be an improvement.

Expectations: The fans want a top-6 finish.

Predictions: Top half (5th-8th) – excuse me if I’m caught up in the transfer euphoria, but Newcastle do have a very strong squad and a very astute manager.

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