Here is the predicted Newcastle team v Brighton that I think Rafa Benitez will choose for Tuesday night’s game.
I can’t work out whether this is Rafa’s easiest team selection or most difficult this season.
Playing against the toughest opposition away from home, you would think he’d always have had an idea of his best eleven in his head.
Of course up and down form in recent matches and indeed within games, as seen by the game of two halves on Saturday,does complicate things.
As does the confirmed absence of Dwight Gayle and Isaac Hayden, who would both have started if available.
I think that Daryl Murphy will be starting, whether it was always the plan to play Mitrovic on Saturday then the former Ipswich striker at Brighton, or basically Rafa accepting he has to make a change after the Serbian offered so little against Bristol City.
Both Atsu and Ritchie worked hard on Saturday and along with Jonjo Shelvey were the ones who caused problems for the visitors to deal with.
I can see both keeping their places and they could be invaluable as Newcastle will try to counter-attack with pace.
Yoan Gouffran was left out against Bristol City but I see him returning, though not in his usual position. Rafa Benitez has played Gouffran in central roles a few times since the turn of the year and with Diame & Perez struggling to make any contribution as the main support to the centre forward, the Frenchman’s busy style could be utilised.
Whilst Diame hasn’t been great in that number 10 role, a number of times during matches he has gone in alongside Jonjo Shelvey, as was the case when NUFC were chasing the game on Saturday.
Colback was terrible once again and Diame can give far more energy and ability to carry the ball, something which will be needed in this tough game.
It would be a massive decision for Rafa to make if he changed any of his back five. You could make a case for all but the excellent Ciaran Clark being under some pressure but the fact Newcastle have the second tightest defence (one more goal conceded than Brighton) tells you that overall there are no serious problems, just so long as they are fully focused from the start.
One wildcard is of course Vurnon Anita, back on the bench on Saturday and a possibility to come into the defence or midfield, though that would be a major surprise after a lengthy absence and not even a single match for the reserves.
My predicted Rafa Benitez Newcastle team v Brighton:
To create the image above, John used the NUFC team selector.
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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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