Under-used Newcastle United player set for surprise start against Chelsea – after new injury blow

Martin Dubravka’s in line to return to Newcastle United’s starting XI at Stamford Bridge – as Nick Pope is set to undergo hand surgery.

Pope – who made a crucial late save in the goalless draw against Leicester City which secured the club Champions League football next season on Monday night – will miss Sunday’s final game of the season on Sunday.

Pope is also out of the England squad for next month’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia.

Dubravka is set to get the nod against Chelsea, having been on the bench since his recall from a loan at Manchester United earlier this season.

The 34-year-old’s only previous start came in January’s FA Cup defeat to Sheffield Wednesday. Dubravka also came off the bench when Nick Pope was dismissed against Liverpool in February, the Slovakia international was cup-tied for the Carabao Cup final against Erik ten Hag’s side.

Eddie Howe – who labelled Pope as an “incredible signing” after the Leicester game – also has Loris Karius and Mark Gillespie available.

Howe had recalled Dubravka from Old Trafford after the hugely-experienced player, signed by Rafa Benitez, initially on loan, in 2018, was restricted to two cup appearances in the first half of the campaign.

Having been No.1 at Newcastle before Pope’s arrival from Burnley last summer, Dubravka, under contract at St James’ Park for two more years, will be keen to play more games next season, when Howe will have to “rotate” his playing squad because of the demands of European football.

Karius, meanwhile, is out of contract at the end of the campaign., though the 29-year-old could be offered a new deal.

“He’s an important part of what we’re doing,” said Howe. “I’ve said that all along.

“He’s an important member of our goalkeeping team. It’s great to have Nick back and Martin back, two top goalkeepers, but Loz is certainly valued by us.”