Newcastle are back where they belong this season, riding high once more in the Premier League with former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez at the helm.
Benitez’s boys sealed promotion by finishing top of the Championship last season, with the likes of Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle leading the goal scoring charts for the Magpies.
While they began the season slowly (their opening two fixtures ended in defeat), they went on various winning spells throughout the season to challenge fellow promotion candidates Brighton all the way to the final day of the season.
Brighton had been seven points clear at the top of the table with three games remaining, but they somehow failed to win any of them, while Newcastle kept their cool and were crowned champions in the dying moments of their campaign.
Rafa sure does love a comeback.
And while we’re sure they’re going to be a hit once again in the top-flight, they’re surely going to find the going tough this season.
So to make things interesting, we decided to give them a little bit of extra help using some of Rafa’s old favourites, especially considering the reports earlier in the summer that Pepe Reina could be heading to St. James’ Park for a Rafa-reunion.
Using the extreme accuracy of Football Manager 2017, we simulated a whole season of Newcastle’s season back in the Premier League and gave them the old Liverpool trio of Reina, Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres.
They may be past their best, but we reckon they can still do a shift or two.
Let’s take a look:
So there’s Reina, Alonso and Torres all in the black and white stripes of Newcastle.
Reina joins the Magpies from Napoli, where he continues to excel despite his advancing years, Torres is still banging in goals for his boyhood club Atletico and Alonso played out his final season as a Bayern Munich player with typical class.
But in this reality, they’ll be doing all they can to keep Newcastle in the Premier League.
Can they do it?
Yes, they can.
Newcastle finished a comfortable 12th place, 17 points clear of the drop zone.
And how did our trio do on their Premier League returns?
Pretty decent, it seems.
As you’d probably expect, Reina, Alonso and Torres all made it into the starting XI.
Reina proved to be a reliable goalkeeper, Alonso bossed the midfield alongside Jonjo Shelvey and Torres lead the line as a lone-forward.
Reina played 37 times between the sticks, kept 8 clean sheets and finished the season with a decent 6.98 rating.
Alonso’s final season before retirement ended with a 7.21 rating, but he managed only two assists and no goals during his stint on the northeast.
Torres fared better, scoring 15 times in 36 appearances – his best return of goals since his 2009/10 season at Liverpool – and ended with a 7.02 rating.
In reality, it’ll be interesting to see how the Magpies do this season.
The expectations at the club are always huge, but with Rafa’s experience of managing top clubs, we’re sure they’ll do far better than just fight off relegation.