By Damian Spellman, PA
Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe will take a roll call ahead of Thursday’s scheduled trip to Everton after admitting he is “dangerously close” to not having enough players to fulfil the fixture.
The Magpies went into Monday’s Premier League clash against Manchester United with their squad ravaged by positive Covid-19 tests and injuries and emerged further depleted.
Karl Darlow, Ciaran Clark, Matt Ritchie and the suspended Isaac Hayden were absent from a matchday squad which featured only eight substitutes, while Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin both limped off.
Howe admitted Wilson’s injury in particular was a concern, and while midfielder Hayden is available after serving his ban, full-back Javier Manquillo picked up his fifth yellow card of the campaign against the Red Devils and will sit out at Goodison Park.
The Newcastle boss declined to give details of the extent of the coronavirus outbreak, but asked how the picture looked for Thursday, when he will need a minimum of 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper available, he said: “We will try and get the game on.
“It’s a simple process of counting the bodies, but we just need to count the cost of tonight. We need to count the bodies after tonight.”
Everton, managed by former Magpies boss Rafael Benitez, have not played since December 16 as a result of their own selection problems.
By contrast, Newcastle are set to play for the fifth time in 19 days but will be buoyed by their performance in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United which might have yielded three points for just the second time this season.
They led through Saint-Maximin’s early strike and, although they were pegged by by Edinson Cavani’s 71st-minute equaliser, only the post and keeper David De Gea kept them at bay in a dramatic finish.
With £40million record signing Joelinton, rejuvenated in a midfielder role under Howe, leading a commendable team effort, Newcastle suggested they can yet dig themselves out of relegation trouble despite having reached the halfway stage with just 11 points.
Midfielder Sean Longstaff told NUFC TV: “When we get on the front foot and press teams, we know we can make it tough for anyone.
“Our next run of games, we’re not playing Liverpool, Manchester City Manchester United, three of the best teams. We’ve got to use this as a chance to pick up points and hopefully start looking up.
“Every game is massive that you play for Newcastle United. Every time you pull the top on, it’s a massive, massive privilege. Everyone in the dressing room knows that, the staff know that and we’ll put the work in over the next couple of days to be ready for it [Everton].
“It’s a chance to pick up points, we’ve got to see it as that. Hopefully there’s no cancellation in terms of Covid and everything else going on because it’s a game where we can take positives from this one and hopefully carry that on to Thursday night in that game.”