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Opinion

Looks like Mitrovic has got the nod today against Leeds

4 years ago
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Once again, the build-up to this latest Championship clash has seen speculation about Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dwight Gayle dominate many pre-match conversations.

Whether it would be Gayle or Mitrovic who would lead the line, or the remote possibility that at last both might be selected to play together.

I think that last option could be quite easily ruled out. Rafa Benitez keeps repeating that he thinks by far the best formation for this Newcastle team, is one out and out striker and a midfielder/second striker working behind, to help try and get control of the play.

If Rafa is ever going to deviate then it isn’t going to be in one of the toughest looking games of the season against an in-form opposition.

Going into the weekend, Rafa Benitez said on Friday that everybody was available apart from Rolando Aarons after his shock ACL injury in midweek training. So no injury doubts on either striker.

The club were obviously keen to keep a lid on the off the field problems Dwight Gayle had experienced. A media exclusive revealing on Saturday that the Newcastle striker had been punched unconscious and had four teeth knocked out when celebrating Jamaal Lascelles’s birthday on a night out in Liverpool last weekend.

Emergency dental work was said to have been carried out but it is difficult/impossible(?) to see Rafa Benitez now selecting Dwight Gayle to play that lone striker role at Elland Road. Dwight Gayle’s ‘smile’ may have been restored but the trauma of the attack and the force needed to knock four teeth out, surely means he will be on the bench at best.

Even leaving aside those revelations about the assault, the very recent (playing) histories of the two forwards must have almost guaranteed selection of Mitrovic.

His last five starts have seen:

Sunday 9 October: Serbia 3 Austria 2 (scored two)

Tuesday 25 October: Newcastle 6 Preston 0 (scored two)

Saturday 29 October: Preston 1 Newcastle 2 (scored two)

Saturday 5 November: Newcastle 2 Cardiff 1

Saturday 12 November: Wales 1 Serbia 1 (scored one)

In contrast, Dwight Gayle hasn’t played any football for a month, last appearing in the 3-0 Newcastle win over Ipswich, then being an unused sub in the 6-0 League Cup win over Preston.

Not apportioning any blame to Dwight Gayle for the position he found himself in, during the early hours of last Sunday morning in Liverpool, but purely on football facts alone it is a no-brainer for Aleksandar Mitrovic to play today.

He was given only the last 20 minutes on Tuesday in Serbia’s friendly defeat against Ukraine, so little doubt he’ll be raring to go and full of confidence with seven goals in his last five starts.

Mitrovic now has the perfect platform to cement a starting place in this Newcastle team.

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