With only a few days to prepare and a date against the current table-toppers, it was going to be hard to evaluate Rafa Benítez for whatever performance the Mags threw out in his debut.
Newcastle turned in an improved and more tactically sound match, but were unable to remedy their terrible shooting form as they fell to Leicester 1-0.
After the game, Benítez was positive, which is to be expected from a manager only three days into his new job.
But it’s no secret that the time for moral victories has passed. This team needs points, and while a battling away loss against the darlings of the Premier League might be somewhat excusable, anything less than three points in this Sunday’s derby match will sound alarms.
If Newcastle can get the win, Rafa Benítez will be dubbed the potential savior we desperately need. Anything less, and everyone will be asking what exactly has changed.
So after the performance against Leicester, can we expect any changes for this weekend’s crucial fixture?
The Spaniard’s first line-up was very similar to the team McClaren was putting out. A change I would like to see is for Andros Townsend to come in for a player who was entrenched in McClaren’s line-up, Moussa Sissoko.
Sissoko has been one of the most frustrating players to watch the past few seasons. On his day, he can be one of the best; but his day hardly ever comes anymore. And far too often have we endured talk of Sissoko discussing his ‘Champions League aspirations’ during interviews, which include his not-so-subtle hints of wanting a transfer.
With Andros Townsend, Newcastle have a £12 million man who wanted to come and play for the team. He also has one more goal (1-0!) than Sissoko does this year and in far fewer games.
Dropping a player of Sissoko’s quality would be bold but the Frenchman is in bad form and it’s something the team hasn’t tried yet.
Another option Rafa Benítez has, is to play Doumbia up front with Mitrovic. The Ivorian hasn’t had much of an opportunity yet and I’d like to see him and Mitro operating as a partnership. Mitrovic continues to impress with his build-up play and effort but seems to lose every ounce of poise when he is called upon in the box; a goal would really do wonders his confidence wonders.