The selection of the Newcastle team v Birmingham is set to be interesting.
With players injured, cup-tied and in Gabon for the African Cup of Nations, a whole side of first team squad players is missing, plus the odd sub…
On Tuesday lunchtime at his press conference, Rafa Benitez revealed that four inexperienced players had been pulled from the reserve team and have been training with the first team this week, plus Rob Elliot didn’t travel to Swansea on Monday night for the second string clash there.
Goalkeeper is one position where Newcastle are more than healthy and I think Karl Darlow will have a deserved night off, with Matz Sels in goal and Rafa taking it easy with Rob Elliot, starting with him on the bench.
As for the 10 outfield players, if you assume the four young reserves are only getting a place on the bench at best, it doesn’t leave an awful lot of options, unless somebody makes a very quick recovery.
The two big questions for most supporters will be whether Jonjo Shelvey and/or Daryl Murphy are named in the starting eleven.
My best guess is that with the Championship on Saturday in mind, neither will start, but Shelvey might get 20/25 minutes in the second half to warm him up a little bit for Saturday.
If Murphy is kept for Saturday, Ayoze Perez looks the only available option to play the lone striker role and just so long as the injury he picked up late at Brentford isn’t a problem, Gouffran looks set to play a supporting role.
The likes of Lazaar and Hanley look sure to come in again, as they did at St Andrew’s, whilst maybe it will be Jamaal Lascelles who gets a rest this time, with Ciaran Clark and Paul Dummett making up the back four.
Jack Colback will fill one of the midfield slots and this could well be Cheick Tiote’s final game for Newcastle, unless Rafa actually wants to play Jonjo Shelvey in this FA Cup replay.
The likes of Shelvey, Lascelles and Murphy look set to fill the bench alongside some of the promoted young reserve players.
Saturday of course sees Sammy Ameobi and Jamie Sterry available after being cup-tied, whilst Isaac Hayden is said to have a bit of a chance of making Rotherham as well.
With Gianfranco Zola also set to make changes, here’s hoping Rafa can get enough out of his walking wounded to get Newcastle into the fourth round.
My idea of likely Newcastle team v Birmingham:
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When using the NUFC team selector you simply click on what team formation (4-3-3, 4-4-2 etc) you want, then click each position on the pitch and choose from the Newcastle United squad.
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