Newcastle United welcome Aston Villa to St. James' Park for the first game of the 2023/24 Premier League campaign. Kick-off is at 5.30 p.m. BST on Saturday evening, with the game being televised live on Sky Sports Main Event in the UK and Ireland.
Eddie Howe's side are looking to get the new season off to the best possible start against very tough opposition. The players and staff are no doubt also looking for a measure of revenge following the disappointing 3-0 defeat at Villa Park in the last competitive meeting between the two clubs.
Having faced off against Unai Emery's team just three weeks ago in the Premier League US Summer Series in a thrilling encounter that ended up finishing 3-3, Howe appears to be relishing locking horns with the man who was chosen ahead of him to succeed Steve Bruce before a dramatic u-turn.
Here's everything you need to know before the big game, with all of the latest team news, lineup predictions, kit information, ticketing details, where you can watch, and much more.
Fabian Schär has been back in full training since Tuesday and will be part of the Newcastle squad, following a hamstring strain suffered in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea in Atlanta on the 26th of July.
Joe Willock has hit a setback in his recovery from his own much more serious hamstring issue, though, and is not expected to return to full training until mid-September.
Emil Krafth remains 4-6 weeks away from joining in with the main group, too, while Javier Manquillo doesn't appear to be available for selection despite featuring in photos and videos of training this week. It seems the Spaniard could be set for a return to his homeland, though his precise destination is yet to be confirmed.
Otherwise, Howe has a very strong squad available to him, with new signings Sandro Tonali, Harvey Barnes, and Tino Livramento all in line to make their competitive debuts.
Goalkeepers: Nick Pope, Martin Dúbravka, Loris Karius, Mark Gillespie
Defenders: Kieran Trippier, Tino Livramento, Fabian Schär, Jamaal Lascelles, Sven Botman, Paul Dummett, Dan Burn, Matt Targett, Alex Murphy
Midfielders: Sandro Tonali, Sean Longstaff, Bruno Guimarães, Lewis Miley, Joelinton, Elliot Anderson, Matt Ritchie
Forwards: Miguel Almirón, Jacob Murphy, Alexander Isak, Callum Wilson, Anthony Gordon, Harvey Barnes
On the Aston Villa side, Emery looks set to be without Álex Moreno, Jacob Ramsey, Bertrand Traoré, Jhon Durán, Leander Dendoncker, Emi Buendía, and Tim Iroegbunam.
Goalkeepers: Emi Martínez, Robin Olsen, Filip Marschall
Defenders: Tyrone Mings, Pau Torres, Calum Chambers, Ezri Konsa, Diego Carlos, Matty Cash, Lucas Digne, Seb Revan
Midfielders: John McGinn, Boubacar Kamara, Douglas Luiz, Leon Bailey, Youri Tielemans, Philippe Coutinho, Jaden Philogene, Omari Kellyman
Forwards: Ollie Watkins, Moussa Diaby, Cameron Archer
It would be a shock to see Howe trying three at the back again here, as he did in the friendly between the two teams.
We expect to see Newcastle lining up in their typical 4-3-3, though there are selection headaches everywhere for the head coach. Lascelles or Schär? Burn or Targett? Anderson, Longstaff, or Tonali? Isak or Wilson? Gordon or Barnes?
Here's how we think he'll go, with our biggest question mark being over the right-sided central midfield spot:
Starting XI: Pope; Trippier (c), Schär, Botman, Burn; Anderson, Guimarães, Joelinton; Almirón, Isak, Gordon
Substitutes: Dúbravka; Livramento, Lascelles, Targett; Tonali, Longstaff; J. Murphy, Wilson, Barnes
Villa should look something like this, in Emery's typical fluid 4-2-2-2:
Starting XI: Martínez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Digne; Kamara, Luiz; McGinn (c), Bailey; Diaby, Watkins
Substitutes: Olsen; Chambers, Diego Carlos, Torres; Tielemans, Coutinho, Philogene, Kellyman; Archer
Andy Madley will be the man in the middle for this one, with Simon Hooper the VAR.
Madley was in charge of our 0-0 draw at Arsenal and 2-1 home win over Wolves in the league last season.
Unsurprisingly, it will be black and white shirts, black shorts, and white socks for the home side.
The visitors will be wearing claret and light blue shirts, white shorts, and light blue socks.
Eddie Howe spoke to the assembled media at Benton on Friday morning, commenting:
"Naturally you move from challenge to challenge and now I think the one in front of us is our biggest challenge, but we have to be excited about it. We have to take it head on.
We go into a very difficult start and that's another challenge added to it, but we'll give it our best shot. We'll go all in and that's all I ask the players to deliver - their absolute maximum.
If you look at last season and the job that he (Emery) did, I thought they were excellent against us. I think he's done a magnificent job and his players have done a magnificent job as well. They narrowly missed out on getting close to us, so we know it's going to be difficult.
I think we know each other quite well and I think there's a lot of healthy respect between the two teams."
Unai Emery held his own press conference a day prior, with his most notable quotes being:
"We are going to play 38 matches (in the Premier League). Every match is going to be very, very important, but of course we are going to win, we are going to draw, and we are going to lose.
Starting against Newcastle is a very good challenge for us. It’s difficult and I’m very excited about how we can face the match, analysing them, the match we played in pre-season and the last two matches they played in pre-season last week.
They are feeling strong at home and their objective has now changed completely from two years before. They have to be in the top four. We want to be as close as we can to be a candidate to be in the top seven or top four. That is the challenge we are going to face."
There are still around 100 "youth" tickets available up in Level 7, for members aged between 14 and 17, but otherwise, the game is a complete sellout.
If you're looking to snap something up at the last minute and have a membership, the booking page on the official website is still online.
Don't forget that this is the first "proper" game with full digital ticketing, too. The club has an online guide available for anyone unsure about how digital tickets will work.
Sky Sports will be televising the game in the UK and Ireland, while BBC Radio 5 Live Sport have the national radio rights and BBC Radio Newcastle the local radio rights.
Internationally, the game appears to be available almost everywhere. See where you can watch it in your region on LiveSoccerTV.
Newcastle have won 43% of the 171 competitive games between the two sides, with Villa winning 35%. Here's the full record:
Last season's league meetings were 4-0 to Newcastle at St. James' and 3-0 to Emery's side at Villa Park.
We're expecting an absolute cracker here between two top-quality teams that will be gunning for the European places this season.
Given the late injury to Emi Buendía and Jacob Ramsey's unavailability, though, we see Newcastle edging it 2-1.
We might have predicted a draw had Emery had his full-strength XI available.
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