Here is the predicted Newcastle team v Birmingham that I think Rafa Benitez will choose for this afternoon’s game.
As well as a first defeat in 12 Championship matches last Saturday against Fulham, guesstimating the team selection is also confused by injury problems.
With Yedlin & Clark joining Aarons & Hayden on the injured list, Rafa Benitez has some big calls to make.
Playing against a team that have won only two of their last 18 games and have managed to score more than one goal in only a single match of the last 15, many people would fancy that Rafa might just go for a more attacking look than normal.
However, I think he will resist the calls to play both Gayle and Murphy, instead relying on his top scorer being that bit sharper after another week of training, to play the usual sole striker role.
Behind him, you once again have a toss up between Ayoze Perez and Mohamed Diame. The Manager tends to slightly favour the Senegalese midfielder and maybe he can reproduce his best performance so far this season when NUFC crushed Birmingham 4-0 at St James Park.
I can’t see anything other than Ritchie, Shelvey and Colback continuing in midfield, with the other position also a toss up between Atsu and Gouffran. The Ghanaian winger was very poor against Fulham, though he was in good company, and maybe this will be just Gouffran’s turn to get a game.
At the back is arguably the most intriguing when it comes to today’s selection.
When Ciaran Clark was forced off against Fulham, it was notable that instead of bringing on the centre-back he had on the bench, Rafa moved Paul Dummett to centre-back rather than bring Grant Hanley on.
Hanley and Lascelles look very similar and I think the United boss may once again turn away from putting them together. Paul Dummett has had some of his best games for Newcastle when put into the middle and I think he will continue on from Fulham in that role.
At left-back, Jesus Gamez did ok when Clark’s injury forced the switch last weekend and he looks favourite to be involved today. Lazaar could possibly come in from the cold but Haidara definitely won’t, he is playing for the reserves in their 1pm kick-off at St James Park today against West Ham.
Chancel Mbemba is of course the wildcard. Arguably the most talented defender on Newcastle’s books but totally sidelined by Rafa Benitez in recent months.
Mbemba made a personal statement on Friday about his commitment despite not being selected, whilst Rafa was non-committal and just said he was training well (just like he says about every player!).
My predicted Rafa Benitez Newcastle team v Birmingham:
To create the image above, Ryan 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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