Last season: 12th
FA Cup: Third round
Carling Cup: Fourth round
Opening three fixtures: Arsenal (h), Sunderland (a), Fulham (h)
Transfers in: Yohan Cabaye (Lille, £5m); Gabriel Obertan (Man Utd, £3.25m); Mehdi Abeid (Lens, free); Sylvain Marveaux (Rennes, free); Demba Ba (West Ham, free)
Transfers out: Kevin Nolan (West Ham, £4.5m); Wayne Routledge (Swansea, £2m); Jose Enrique (Newcastle, £6m); Ben Tozer (Northampton, free); Patrick Mclaughlin (York, free); Daniel Leadbitter (Torquay, free); Kazenga Lua Lua (Brighton, loan); Sol Campbell (released); Shefki Kuqi (released); Nathan Evans (released)
Key man: Cheick Tiote
Odds for relegation: 5/1
After a respectable first season back in the Premier League you would expect Alan Pardew’s men to be pushing for a top-half finish again. However, a summer of unrest has resulted in big names – most notably last season’s captain and top goal scorer Kevin Nolan – heading for the exit door, making odds of 5/1 for the Geordies to be relegated worth a second look.
Odds for finishing bottom: 25/1
The departures of Nolan and Routledge will undeniably hinder the team, especially if they follow up on the amazing decision to allow Joey Barton to leave on a free transfer. With Jose Enrique also signing for Liverpool this week, it could turn out to be a tough seaso for the Magpies. Even so, it is very hard to see Newcastle finishing below all three of the newly-promoted teams. The odds of 25/1 for the Toon Army to end up rock bottom may catch the eye of the long-shot punter, but the chances of this occurrence are extremely slim.
Odds for finishing above Sunderland: 6/5
Arch-rivals Sunderland have been extremely busy in the transfer market, signing ten players so far, and boss Steve Bruce has admitted he is still keen to bring in more new faces. Arrivals John O’Shea and Wes Brown will add invaluable experience and with prospects such as Craig Gardner and Connor Wickham being added to the squad, Bruce and chairman Niall Quinn are looking to push the Black Cats towards the European positions.
Newcastle are unlikely to be able to keep pace with them, so the 6/5 price for finshing above the Wearsiders do not make much appeal. The odds of 3/5 for Sunderland to finish above the Magpies may attract some attention, while the Black Cats are at slightly more appealing odds of 17/20 to finish above their neighbours with -3.5 points on the handicap market.
The St James’ Park faithful are undoubtedly up there with the best of fans when it comes to supporting their beloved side, but the same cannot be said for their relationship with the board. If bad feelings towards Mike Ashley and his colleagues flare up again early on, it is possible that the Geordies could find themselves fighting relegation come the closing stages of the campaign. Re-challenging for the Premier League title is the dizzy high the fans are desperate for, but while the club is fixed on selling their finest talents like Andy Carroll and Nolan, it is hard to foresee anything other than a dogfight at the foot of the table for the Magpies this season.
Survival is crucial this year, as it would be considerably tougher to gain promotion back to the top flight if Newcastle were to suffer the dreaded drop. Pardew’s reliance on unproven imports to get his side off to a flying start could be decisive if the team from Tyneside are to beat relegation. If the likes of Cabaye, Obertan and Marveaux do not come in and perform during the first few weeks of the season, Newcastle could face an uphill struggle.
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