As if facing a Manchester United side boosted by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo was not going to be daunting enough, Newcastle United have been hit with the news that key striker Callum Wilson will miss the game at Old Trafford.
Steve Bruce's side go into the match having take just one point from their opening three games and with fan frustration already boiling up after a summer where the arrival of Joe Willock from Arsenal represented the club's only move in the transfer market.
After defeats against West Ham United, Aston Villa, a draw against Southampton in the league - as well as a League Cup exit at home to Burnley - the Magpies now take on one of the English top-flight's 'Big Six' for the first time this season.
And while Newcastle's lack of new signings has infuriated fans - and frustrated Bruce - they tackle a Manchester United squad strengthened by the arrival of winger Jadon Sancho, defender Raphael Varane and, most recently, the return of the prodigal son in Ronaldo.
Ole Gunnar Solkkjaer's side are joint second in the table having won two and drawn one of their opening matches.
So the news on Friday that Wilson, last season's top scorer with 12 goals, will miss Saturday's Premier League game through injury, is a body blow for the black and whites.
He has already scored twice this season and his absence means a likely start for either Joelinton or Dwight Gayle up front. The pair scored five league goals between them last season.
“Callum won’t make the weekend,” said Bruce. “Unfortunately, he picked up a thigh injury a muscle strain.
“We’re not going to put a timescale on it. It’s really frustrating for Callum and for us. He’s got two goals in three games as well.
“It’s unfortunate that he’s picked up this thigh injury. We’ll just give it as long as we can.”
Scotland international Ryan Fraser will also miss the game. “He’s twisted his ankle,” added Bruce. “We don’t think it’s as bad as certainly the photographs we saw of him on crutches and in a boot [earlier in the week]. It was only precautionary.”
Newcastle 2 Southampton 2: player ratings
One positive note for Newcastle is that Miguel Almiron is free to play this weekend amid an continuing debate over a collective decision by Premier League clubs not to allow South American players to travel to countries on the UK Government’s Covid-19 red-list.
Almiron did not meet up with the Paraguay squad for their World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela last week, and it was understood that the Paraguay Football Association had asked Fifa to invoke its five-day rule, meaning he would not be allowed to play for the Magpies this weekend.
“It’s a difficult one for the players, very, very difficult because all they want to do is play football,” Bruce said.
“The ultimate is to play for your country — and I can understand that — and of course play on a Saturday, so they’ve been drawn into a very difficult situation.
“However, a bit of common sense has prevailed with Almiron that he’s available, so we’re extremely pleased that that he’s available for selection.”
As for the prospect of taking on Ronaldo in front of a rocking Old Trafford, Bruce said it was down to his team to “spoil the party".
“Listen, it’s always going to be tough and obviously the added spice of Ronaldo coming back has added to it,” former Manchester United defender Bruce said.
“But make no mistake, they’ve got quality players all over the pitch, so whenever you go to Old Trafford, the one thing you’re going to have to do is enjoy the challenge of playing against one of the big, big teams of this country and relish the opportunity to go and see if we can spoil the party a bit."