Mike Holden previews the season opener as Fulham entertain Rafa Benitez's new-look Newcastle
Fulham v Newcastle - Friday 19:45, Sky Sports 1
Ciaran Clark and Mo Diame could go straight into the Newcastle line-up after completing their moves to Tyneside on Wednesday, which just goes to underline the resources at Rafa Benitez’s disposal as the Magpies look to bounce back from relegation at the first time of asking.
But as always with Rafa, you can rest assured the approach will be safety-first and the value here could be found in the 15/8 quotes about Newcastle to keep a clean sheet, rather than the 21/20 available on them to win. The Spaniard was happy enough to settle for 0-0 draws on the opening day in previous jobs at Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
Fulham’s attacking options could be severly limited with Ross McCormack reportedly on the verge of joining Aston Villa, following strike partner Moussa Dembele out of the Craven Cottage exit door. McCormack had been previously been linked with Newcastle before Benitez turned his attention elsewhere, eventually settling on a move for Dwight Gayle.
Slavisa Jokanovic will probably benefit from McCormack’s departure in the long run. Fulham had become far too reliant on his goals, of which there were 38 in the past two seasons, but a more cohesive style of play could be slow to materialise and this might not be a bad time for the Magpies to make this trip. It could be a lot trickier later in the season.