The Teams: Newcastle - Darlow, Lascelles, Fernandez, Manquillo, Rose, Saint-Maximin, Hayden, Joelinton, Shelvey, Almiron, Gayle. Sheffield United - Henderson, Bashsam, Egan, O’Connell, Osborn, Baldock, Norwood, Fleck, Lundstram, Sharp, McBurnie.
The Referee: David Coote, from Nottingham, will take charge of United’s visit to the North-East, while Peter Kirkup and Nick Hopton are his assistants. Robert Jones is scheduled to be the fourth official on duty while Martin Atkinson has been handed the task of overseeing the match on VAR. Cootes was the man in the middle when United beat Crystal Palace at the beginning of the campaign and also for their draw with Watford in December.
The Last Time: United’s meeting with Newcastle at Bramall Lane in December was shrouded in controversy when Jonjo Shelvey’s goal, following Allan Saint-Maximin’s opener, was allowed to stand after a VAR review. Dean Henderson made no attempt to stop the midfielder from scoring because Andy Carroll had been flagged offside and, with United’s defenders also halting play, Shelvey was effectively allowed to run the ball into the net. But referee Stuart Attwell awarded the strike, which sealed a 2-0 win for the visitors, when the officials at Stockley Park deemed Carroll had not strayed beyond the last man before providing the assist.
The Form Book: After a run of seven games without a win - their FA Cup success over Oxford has been officially recorded as a draw because it came during extra-time, Newcastle enter this match on the back of two straight wins, having also knocked West Bromwich Albion out of the competition before last weekend’s Premier League victory over Southampton. Newcastle last tasted success on home soil in January, when Chelsea were beaten 1-0.
The Opposition Manager: Well-known to supporters on both sides of the Steel City divide, Bruce’s first job as a manager was at United where, before leaving in 1999, he was responsible for selling Wilder; then in his second spell as a player at Bramall Lane. Having also managed Huddersfield Town, Crystal Palace, Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic, Sunderland, Aston Villa and Hull City, Bruce took charge of Sheffield Wednesday before resigning his position after being approached about joining Newcastle, the club he supported as a boy.
The History Lesson: This will be the 125th meeting between these two clubs, whose rivalry dates back to 1894. United have won 49 of their previous encounters, Newcastle have prevailed on 46 occasions while 29 have ended all square. The last draw, however, came in 1990 at Bramall Lane. Newcastle will register a fifth straight victory over United if they win this weekend, although the visitors did take all three points in the most recent Premier League clash between them at St James’ Park, when Danny Webber scored the only goal of the game in November 2006.
The Danger Man: Goalkeeper Martin Dubravka was in inspired form when Newcastle travelled to South Yorkshire earlier this term, twice producing wonderful saves to deny Oli McBurnie before also preventing an effort from Enda Stevens crossing the line after it took a deflection. The Slovak, who moved to the North-East from Sparta Prague, has kept a clean sheet in each of his last two outings but will miss this match through injury, Karl Darlow, his likely replacement, has not played a Premier League fixture for over two years.
The Facts You Didn’t Know: Newcastle United were founded when Newcastle West End, who were then in serious difficulties, approached rivals Newcastle East End, who had already turned professional about amalgamating with them. The Gallowgate End at St James’ Park gets its name from the fact the stadium is near the site of the old city gallows.