By Damian Spellman, PA
Newcastle boss Eddie Howe may have to wait until 75 minutes before kick-off at Liverpool to learn whether he can hand record signing Alexander Isak a debut.
The 22-year-old Sweden international completed a £58million move from Real Sociedad on Friday, but was unable to make a first appearance for the club in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Wolves because his work permit had not been processed.
As Howe held his pre-match press conference on Tuesday morning, that situation remained unchanged.
Asked if Isak would be available, the 44-year-old replied: “We don’t know, we still don’t know and I still don’t know. I hope so, I desperately hope so. It would be great to see him involved for us, but we’re in the hands still of other people.
“We’re desperately hoping that gets done before the game, but there’s no guarantee as I sit here now.”
Asked if there was a cut-off point, Howe added: “I think it’s 75 minutes before kick-off. We don’t know, so it could go down to the wire. We’ll wait and see.”
Isak’s arrival appeared to have come in the nick of time with Callum Wilson, the Magpies’ top scorer in each of the last two seasons, facing several weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, only for the red tape to cause a delay.
Howe’s need grew after the game at Molineux when Allan Saint-Maximin, who had earlier scored a stunning equaliser, limped off with a similar problem.
The Frenchman and key midfielder Bruno Guimaraes – who missed out at the weekend with a hamstring strain – are doubts for the trip to Merseyside.
Howe, whose side hit the headlines last weekend after a thrilling 3-3 draw with champions Manchester City, has already become accustomed to the rollercoaster existence of life at St James’ Park.
He said: “There are always going to be tests and moments that are meant to try you and you’ve just got to try to figure out a plan in return and try to find a way around it.”
In the meantime, Howe will prepare his players for a difficult game – Liverpool emerged from a testing start to the new campaign with a 9-0 demolition of Bournemouth on Saturday – with back-up keeper Martin Dubravka seemingly heading for Manchester United.
The former Cherries boss reiterated his reluctance to allow the Slovakia international to leave, but hinted that it was not his decision.
He said: “It’s not always about what I want or the club wants, you have to understand the player’s position as well. Sometimes you have to see things from two perspectives.
“There’s no ideal world in football. You have to make a decision. The club have made the decision and we back it.
“Obviously I’d love as many good goalkeepers as I can have, and certainly Martin is that. But as I say, you’ve got to understand the other person’s perspective.”