The Rafa Benitez team selection for Southend and the nine players on the subs bench, gives us a number of clues as to where the team/squad are at in advance of the Championship kicking off in 10 days time.
The team and squad are listed below but here are a few conclusions:
Gayle, Perez and Aarons once again start, a strong suggestion these three will also start against Fulham, whilst with Mitrovic suspended for the first four games it looks like he is taking more of a back seat for the time being.
Cheick Tiote only has just over half an hour on the pitch so far and is nowhere to be seen tonight – a move in the offing? It certainly looks so, with Sky Sports saying he is negotiating a £4m a season three year contract with Abu Dhabi side Al Jazira.
Whilst it does look as though Jesus Gamez is having to serve a suspension after his ridiculous red card on Saturday (watch it here).
Matt Ritchie missed Lokeren with a knock which Rafa Benitez suggested wasn’t serious and would just mean a couple of days out, so a slight worry to see he isn’t even on the bench tonight.
One definite positive though, is that Grant Hanley is now able to take a place on the bench.
Southend United v Newcastle United
Newcastle starting 11:
Darlow, Janmaat, Mbemba, Lascelles (c), Dummett, Hayden, Anita, Shelvey, Aarons, Perez, Gayle
Sels, Sterry, Saivet, Gouffran, Thauvin, Armstrong, Mitrovic, Colback, Hanley
Looking at the players above, you would imagine that the 11 named to start on Tuesday night against Southend will pretty closely resemble the team that faces Fulham.
Sels is likely to be number one but I wouldn’t mind either him or Darlow – but with outfield players United are starting to look a little thin squad-wise.
Sterry is untried, Thauvin once again linked with a move away earlier today, Mitrovic unable to play those first four matches, little faith in Saivet & Gouffran, Hanley yet to prove match fitness and Armstrong – still an unknown in terms of whether Rafa sees him as a Championship player this season, or sends him out on another loan.
So of the bench that leaves Colback as the only tried and tested reliable player who is available at the moment.
Of the others, Jesus Gamez should be available for Fulham hopefully but the big one is Matt Ritchie – everything crossed that it is just a precaution that he has missed Southend as well as Lokeren.
Krul and Elliot are still to return but goalkeepers don’t look a priority anyway, Siem de Jong and Haidara are seemingly permanently injured, whilst I don’t really care where Riviere is.
Kevin Mbabu showed promise in his brief chances last season but Rafa gave him time on the pitch for the Under 21s last weekend, rather than a bit-part role at Lokeren. The Swiss defender could be promoted and be involved against Vitesse Arnhem in the final friendly on Saturday.
The other name missing is of course Moussa Sissoko and surely he will be on his way as well and I now look and think that surely, we are now set for another flurry of signings to add quality and quantity to the numbers of players who actually have something to offer this coming season.
Big challenges for all teams in the Championship with such a long season but two massive advantages for Newcastle United: significant money available to spend and Rafa Benitez the man choosing where it goes.