Nottingham Forest are edging closer to their opening game of the season and Steve Cooper looks to have eight players certain to start

The Reds have completed their pre-season campaign in terms of friendlies and now the fun stuff can begin.

Given the approach Cooper has taken during pre-season, we feel that eight members of his squad have secured their shirts ahead of Saturday’s trip to Newcastle.

With this in mind, three places in the team remain open to discussion and a battle for places looks set to commence.

Forest players certain to make starting XI v Newcastle:

Eight starters look cemented for Forest

Cooper is renowned for not doing too much tinkering once he gets a settled side together. This season, that might prove a little bit different with a host of players to blend into the team.

Of the eight starters, only three played for Forest last season, with five new players set to be handed debuts at St James’ Park this weekend.

Expected Forest starters v Newcastle

Dean Henderson will definitely start between the posts. He signed for the Reds on loan from Manchester United ahead of Brice Samba joining Lens.

Joe Worrall is another certain starter. He will get the nod and is likely to be named as the club’s new captain following Lewis Grabban’s decision to leave.

Elsewhere defensively, last season’s Player of the Year, Scott McKenna should be handed the chance to showcase his Premier League potential.

The two wing-back roles should pick themselves. Harry Toffolo will get the nod over Omar Richards with the latter currently injured.

On the right, Neco Williams has been added and he will need to show he can replace the void left by Djed Spence.

In midfield, Lewis O’Brien should start after his £10 million move from Huddersfield, with Jesse Lingard operating as a number 10.

Brennan Johnson scored 19 goals last season and he’s likely to start in attack.

Forest players certain to start
(Photo Jon Hobley; MI News; NurPhoto; Getty Images)

In contention to claim a Forest place

Three positions on Saturday remain up for grabs. One of those is in central midfield with Jack Colback battling Orel Mangala, with Ryan Yates injured.

The talented Belgian is likely to be the long-term solution but he will have only had a single week to train with his new teammates.

Another gap comes in the centre of defence. Steve Cook was brilliant during the second half of last season after signing on a free transfer from Bournemouth.

Moussa Niakhate looks like a real find, however, and he won’t have joined from Mainz to kick his heels on the bench.

Forest players certain to start
(Photo; Boris Streubel; Getty Images)

The final debate comes upfront where as many as three players could compete to partner Johnson.

Taiwo Awoniyi looks like the logical choice. He signed from Union Berlin and scored 20 goals for the German outfit last season.

Sam Surridge was on fire at the back end of last season though and he will want to play.

Likewise, Lyle Taylor has enjoyed a strong pre-season and he might feel he deserves the chance to show Cooper what he’s capable of.

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