Saturday must surely see Chancel Mbemba brought back into the team.
Rafa Benitez confirmed that DeAndre Yedlin is definitely out of the Birmingham match with a thigh injury, whilst according to the local media Ciaran Clark is also set to miss this weekend’s match.
Clark was forced off against Fulham with a knock and the problems Newcastle had when dealing with the breaks and pace of the opposition were then multiplied once the former Villa player departed.
Ciaran Clark has been easily Newcastle’s best defender and indeed best player this season overall, whilst DeAndre Yedlin has also done really well and given United an extra dimension with his pace.
In fact the two of them have been Newcastle’s best defenders and by far the quickest, maybe the two things largely going hand in hand.
It was interesting to see Rafa Benitez’ reaction to Clark having to be subbed.
Grant Hanley was the natural replacement but instead he was left on the bench, as the United boss chose to move Paul Dummett inside to play with Lascelles, whilst Jesus Gamez was brought on to play full-back.
Rafa Benitez clearly not thinking that pairing Lascelles with Hanley would be a good idea, the two totally devoid of pace and uncomfortable on the ball, the partnership doing really badly when paired together at Fulham on the opening day of the season.
Moving ahead to Saturday, the common sense move must be to bring Chancel Mbemba back into the team.
Clearly there must have been things going on behind the scenes that has totally sidelined the DR Congo international but at this crucial stage of the season with nine games left, Newcastle definitely need him on the pitch if Clark is going to be missing.
It is easy to forget that when arriving as a 20 year old from the weak Belgian league, Chancel Mbemba was easily Newcastle’s best defender last season.
After recovering from injury, the former Anderlecht player actually played in the final nine games under Rafa Benitez and was an integral part of the defence that helped United remain undefeated in the final six Premier League games.
The start of the season saw, a bit like the team overall, the Mbemba/Lascelles partnership looked a bit shaky at times and after the Wolves defeat, either could have been dropped, but Clark came in for Mbemba and not Lascelles, with the Irish international immaculate once given a proper chance.
In contrast, Mbemba has only had one Championship game (home defeat to Blackburn) since September and even struggles to get on the bench – the Reading away game the only one he has been named amongst the subs for since 2 January.
We have already seen some welcome unexpected stars this season with Daryl Murphy belatedly getting his chance, time now for Chancel Mbemba to get the same opportunity at St Andrew’s if Ciaran Clark is ruled out as expected. He is confident on the ball and above all else has that pace which the likes of Anita, Lascelles, Hanley and Dummett are lacking.
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