St James’ Park is not a happy hunting ground for the villains who have not got on the bus back to the midlands with all three points since 2005, losing nine and drawing six in their 15 visits.
And to add to their problems this time out, Unai Emery’s team travel without their Argentinian midfielder Emi Buendia who sustained an ACL injury in training on Wednesday, ruling him out for the next 9 months.
The news regarding Buendia only adds to the injury problems that Emery faces, with Jacob Ramsey, Alex Moreno, Leander Dendoncker, Bertrand Traoré, Tim Iroegbunam and Jhon Durán all missing
However new signings Moussa Diaby, Youri Tielemans and Pau Torres are available to make their premier league debuts for their new club, which sweetens the blow somewhat.
Eddie Howe meanwhile has a virtual full squad to choose from, with recent injury concerns over Fabien Schar and Sean Longstaff no longer an issue, leaving only Emil Krafth and Joe Willock unavailable for selection.
Howe’s biggest selection problem will be who to leave out, with new signings Harvey Barnes, Tino Livramento and Sandro Tonali all hoping to be selected for their league debuts while Elliott Anderson and Lewis Miley will be hoping that their performances during the pre-season warm up games have been enough to be considered for a starting place.
Matt Targett will be hoping to line up against his old club as Howe must decide whether Targett gets the nod ahead of Dan Burn, who occupied the left back berth with distinction for most of last season during Targett’s absence through injury.
But Howe's real selection dilemma lies with his midfield. Bruno Guimareaes and Joelinton both spent the summer on International duty with Brazil, while Sandro Tonali was away with the Italian U21'S at the UEFA Under21 Championships, while Sean Longstaff has been nursing an ankle injury since the latter part of last season. Whether this plays into Howe's mind come 4.30pm when the team sheet is handed in we can only speculate; although on paper, this is probably the midfield three that supporters hope he will go with. However, Elliott Anderson has performed with distinction during the close season and particularly in the Sela Cup and is certainly pressing for a place in the starting line up.
Longstaff is rated highly by Howe but with a long season ahead it would not be a surprise if he didn't make the starting 11 for this opening fixture.
that leaves the attacking berths as the final dilemma that Howe must juggle with. Harvey Barnes showed his worth with two well taken goals against Villarreal CF last weekend and he may well be pencilled in to occupy the wide berth on the left of an attacking front three. Elliott Anderson could also be in with a shout for a place in the attacking third.
On the right hand side Miguel Almiron's eye for goal seems to have returned in pre season and that could be a big plus for him; although he does face stiff competition from Anthony Gordon which just leaves a straight battle between Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson for who leads the line although Howe does have the option of selecting them both, with Wilson operating down the middle and Isak on the left of a front three.
What is guaranteed is that whoever Howe selects, they will get a rousing reception from a full St James’ Park.