Newcastle United star set for rare start v Chelsea – could be his last under Eddie Howe

Martin Dubravka could make a farewell appearance for Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge.

Martin Dubravka is set to make his first Premier League start in over 12 months at Chelsea on Sunday afternoon (kick-off 4:30pm) after Nick Pope underwent hand surgery.

The Slovakian played the final game of last season – a 2-1 win at Burnley – before being replaced by Pope – his opposite number that afternoon.

As a result of the England international’s £12million arrival, Dubravka decided to push through a season-long loan move to Manchester United – but it didn’t go to plan. After making just two appearances – both in the Carabao Cup – the 34-year-old requested a return to St James’ Park in January.

Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe was delighted to welcome Dubravka back, though his only appearances since have been in the FA Cup loss at Sheffield Wednesday and when Pope was sent off during February’s 2-0 home defeat to Liverpool.

Although Dubravka still has two years remaining on his contract, it’s possible he could ask to leave this summer in search of regular first-team football. Howe, for his part, hopes the goalkeeper stays.

“I very much hope his future is here,” said Howe. “I rate Martin very highly and always have done, it’s just last summer we had the opportunity to recruit Nick and Nick’s done incredibly well.

“It’s been difficult for Martin to get the game time he wants but we need a good squad going into a season with loads of games. If Martin were to stay then I think he’d get a lot of football.”

Meanwhile, Pope’s surgery was always planned to take place as soon as United sealed Champions League qualification. The 31-year-old has played through the pain barrier since March.

“That was always the plan,” Howe explained. “We were hoping we could get the operation done before the end of the season to give him the best chance of a quick recovery.

“He’s played through various finger dislocations this year. He’s suffered probably three or four, whether that’s in training or a game. But he’s always got on with it and made himself available.

“He’s not really missed training because of it but it was a problem we knew that needed clearing up for his benefit. It’s done and he’s got the extra week.”