Here is the predicted Newcastle team v Preston.
At his Friday lunchtime press conference, Rafa Benitez revealed that Dwight Gayle was a big doubt for Saturday with a ‘little’ problem.
Aleksandar Mitrovic had boosted his case with a man of the match two goal performance on Tuesday night, against admittedly weakened opposition he did look a lot more mobile than of late and took his goals really well.
With Rafa Benitez keen to look after his players rather than risk further injury as Alan Pardew used to do, I assume that even if Dwight Gayle is passed fit, then he will be on the bench rather than starting – just to protect him for the forthcoming matches.
With Mitrovic looking the leading candidate for the advanced position, who will go in behind him?
Mohamed Diame also stepped things up in the League Cup match and with losing Gayle’s mobility, I think Diame must be a big favourite ahead of Ayoze Perez to play, the Senegalese international having more pace and stamina than the Spaniard.
Rafa also confirmed today that Jack Colback wouldn’t play after having stitches in his head would on Tuesday, which appears to guarantee Hayden alongside Shelvey, though I fancy that would have been the case anyway.
On the flanks, the United boss has selected Yoan Gouffran in 11 of the 12 last Championship matches (the only exception being the single defeat that Newcastle have suffered in their last 15 matches in all competitions – home to Wolves) and I can’t see that run changing tomorrow.
On the other side, it looks a straight fight between Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie and no doubt how each of them came out of Tuesday’s match physically, will be a factor. However, all things being equal you’d expect Ritchie to prevail.
Whilst Rafa has stated that Haidara and Lazaar are both now available, with Jesus Gamez also on his way back, difficult to see any of them going straight back into the team, with Paul Dummett set to continue.
The return of Karl Darlow looks straightforward despite Matz Sels’ clean sheet in midweek, similarly recent first choice centre-backs Lascelles and Clark also will surely come back in. Rafa Benitez also said today that like Dwight Gayle, Chancel Mbemba had a ‘little’ problem and was a doubt for tomorrow.
Finally, maybe the decision hardest to call, with Vurnon Anita and DeAndre Yedlin fighting it out on the right. The USA international has impressed in consecutive matches this past seven days and now Rafa must decide between the pace Yedlin adds to the team, against the composure Vurnon adds at right-back.
It was noticeable on Tuesday night that a big part of Preston’s attacking threat appears to be long throws into the box from both sides of the pitch, so interesting to see how Rafa Benitez looks to combat that tomorrow when that could prove a more potent danger.
To create the image above, John Martin used the NUFC team selector.
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