Red cards, goals conceded – are Newcastle's popular Dream Team assets running out of steam? | The Sun
HORDES of excitable Geordies will descend upon London this coming Sunday as Newcastle hope to end their trophy drought by defeating Manchester United in the Carabao Cup final.
The big talking point in the build-up to the clash at Wembley has been Nick Pope's (£4.9m) absence.
Suffering a momentary brain fade against Liverpool, the England international was sent off for handling the ball outside the box to deny Mohamed Salah (£8m) a scoring opportunity.
Loris Karius will therefore be the unlikely starting goalkeeper for the Magpies in what is one of their biggest games in modern times, with Pope resigned to a seat in the stands.
The England international's sending off sent tremors through the world of Dream Team too.
Even accounting for the minus four points he incurred at the weekend, Pope remains comfortably the best asset in his position with 122 points to his name, 20 more than his closest rival, David de Gea (£3.8m).
However, some gaffers may be concerned that he is running out of steam, and he may not be alone among St James' Park residents.
Newcastle's seven most popular assets – Pope, Kieran Trippier (£6.6m), Fabian Schar (£4.5m), Miguel Almiron (£3.7m), Sven Botman (£4.4m), Dan Burn (£4.9m) and Bruno Guimaraes (£3m) – have combined for just 30 points across the last four fixtures.
That underwhelming collective tally contains two red cards, Pope and Guimaraes, but the primary reason for the drop-off in returns is a lack of clean sheets.
Trippier and his fellow first-choice defenders reached the top of the rankings in their position as a quartet through a steady stream of clean sheets but having now conceded in four consecutive games, some Dream Team managers may be wondering if the gravy train has been derailed.
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Their chances of repelling the Red Devils this weekend are slim given Pope's absence and the form of Marcus Rashford (£6.4m) but there's always a chance the contest might be a cagey one, as can happen when there's a trophy on the line.
Whatever the outcome at Wembley, Eddie Howe's side will then have to prepare for a visit to the Etihad the following weekend, another unenviable match-up.
Newcastle assets have performed well above expectations this season but gaffers can't afford to be sentimental – if their points are drying up then action must be taken.
Of course, this current lean patch may only prove to be a temporary blip rather than the start of a significant regression.
Certainly the likes of Trippier and Pope have enough credit in the bank as the outright best performers in their respective positions but it may be wise to start earmarking replacements for the likes of Schar, Burn and Botman.
The Toon have conceded just 15 goals in 23 league games and boast by far and away the best defensive record but if the tide is indeed on the turn then there is nothing to gain from pig-headed stubbornness.
If Newcastle's defensive assets rekindle their supreme form later in the season then Dream Team bosses can always use transfers to get the band back together.
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