The Newcastle team v Aston Villa – will Rafa Benitez ring the changes after the disappointing home defeat to Wolves?
Tuesday brought a 2-0 win to exact a little revenge, though both teams made eight changes each so difficult to know how much reliance Rafa will put on the performances that night.
A 6-0 win over QPR saw three changes, so very unlikely that the United boss would choose this moment to put a block on his rotation policy.
Of course, by regularly changing his team, Rafa Benitez has the luxury of moving players in and out the team without fans/media knowing for sure whether he has actually ‘dropped’ anybody, usually.
I do think Rafa Benitez will actually drop a couple of players, rather than simply rotating, on Saturday.
Matz Sels has failed to totally convince Newcastle fans despite a run of clean sheets, he made a couple of decent saves last Saturday but still looks nervous and his handling of crosses still looks suspect.
Karl Darlow came in once again for the League Cup on Tuesday and gave a faultless performance, a few good saves to preserve his clean sheet and his all-round display exuded far more confidence than Sels appears to show, as he adapts to English football.
My money is on Darlow staying in the team.
Rafa Benitez shows no sign of losing any faith in his 4-2-3-1 usual formation but Dwight Gayle has struggled in recent games as the lone striker. In what is sure to be a physical game, I think Aleksandar Mitrovic could start in that one-forward role, with the energetic trio of Diame, Gouffran and Ritchie in support.
Hayden and Shelvey look the first choice pairing for key games, whilst Achraf Lazaar showed on Tuesday that he is still going up the learning curve, with Dummett set to continue, especially with Jesus Gamez out injured.
Yedlin for the suspended Anita looks obvious, whilst in the middle I have gone for the usual Mbemba/Lascelles…but wouldn’t be that surprised if Rafa did shake that up.
I was tempted to include Ciaran Clark after he looked Newcastle’s best defender on Tuesday night, especially in light of Lascelles and Mbemba having an afternoon to forget last Saturday.
A close call but I think Rafa’s usual centre-back partnership will prevail, just.
My suggested Newcastle team v Aston Villa:
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