Fans wait with interest to see the choice of Newcastle team v Birmingham.
With Jonjo Shelvey suspended, Atsu, Diame & Mbemba on international duty, and Aarons, Perez & Gamez all injured, it restricts Rafa Benitez’ options. On top of that, returning loan players Sterry, Ameobi and Toney are all cup-tied.
In addition, Rafa has confirmed he intends to leave out a number of first team regulars to protect them from injury and/or rest them, though Dwight Gayle is the only one he named.
So, can we expect to see any/many younger players given a chance today at St Andrews, or at least on the bench?
Well a major clue was always going to be the reserve team selection today, with Newcastle’s second string playing Brighton at Little Benton, the match having a noon kick-off.
This is the team selection today:
Newcastle United Under 23s v Brighton (Saturday 7 January 2017 – Noon kick-off)
Newcastle United: Elliot, Williams, Good, Findlay, Wilson, Hunter, Barlaser, Roberts, Longstaff, Smith, Heardman.
Substitutes: Harker, Newberry, Ward, Holmes, El-Mhanni
You can compare it with the reserves (Under 23s) team that was picked on Wednesday when United hammered Bradford.
Bradford Under 23s 0 Newcastle Under 23s 6 (Wednesday 4 January 2017)
Necastle United: Elliot, Williams, Wilson, Hunter, Good, Findlay, Holmes, Barlaser, Heardman, Charman, Smith
Substitutes: Longstaff, El-Mhanni, Ward, Newberry, Harker
The only starter from Wednesday who is missing from today’s Under 23s squad is 19 year old striker Luke Charman, he did score against Bradford but that was his first goal for the reserves this season, so difficult to see him being involved with the first team today.
Looking at the stronger possibilities who could have been selected: winger Callum Roberts has been overlooked, as has centre-back Findlay, whilst this is also the case with 21 year old striker Tom Heardman who has scored a hat-trick in each of his last two reserve games.
Midfielders Barlaser and Longstaff are another two who you wouldn’t have been surprised to see travel to Birmingham but both start today for the reserves.
So despite Rafa’s talk of resting a number of first team regulars, it looks as though pretty much all of his first team squad must have travelled for the FA Cup match and will be at least on the bench.
As the United boss confirmed, Rob Elliot turns out for the reserves today.
The reserve match is now approaching half-time and Newcastle lead 1-0 thanks to a brilliant run and finish by winger Callum Roberts.