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Opinion

I know it’s a dilemma but Rafa Benitez can’t play this pair in midfield tonight

4 years ago
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Rafa Benitez is faced with probably his biggest selection decision of the season so far.

Jonjo Shelvey begins his five match suspension tonight after starting all of Newcastle’s last 18 Championship matches.

The playmaker was left on the bench in two of the opening four games of the season, when United visited Fulham and Bristol City, though he did come on as a substitute both times.

In those two games and Preston North End in the League Cup, Rafa put Jack Colback and Isaac Hayden together in the middle of midfield – though it looks as though that option will be denied the Newcastle Manager with the Geordie midfielder reported to be still struggling with an eye problem.

Two options that have been discussed ahead of tonight, need to be rapidly done away with in my opinion.

Cheick Tiote has been put forward as a possible solution but with next to no Championship (or indeed any) football this season, it would be a really bad move to put any reliance on the former Ivory Coast international.

He was poor/average and gave away a penalty in his only start this season, when Newcastle beat League Two Cheltenham 4-1, then in his 15 minutes against Aston Villa he looked way off the pace and moving Isaac Hayden to right-back gave Villa control in the middle of the pitch.

The lack of match practice/fitness is bad enough but surely his cynical decision to stay at Newcastle for financial reasons rather than look for football elsewhere, only adds to the weight of opinion as to why he shouldn’t even be considered for the bench, never mind the starting eleven.

The other player that should be left well alone, in my opinion, for the central midfield roles is Vurnon Anita.

He has shown himself to be a very tidy option at right-back in the Championship as he competes with DeAndre Yedlin for the shirt. However, it is easy to forget just how often Vurnon Anita was brushed aside when played in the middle of the pitch, as his lack of size, pace and strength regularly helping to hand control of such a key area to the opposition.

No problems if the Dutchman is named at full-back when I hear the teams tonight but I think Rafa needs to look at the likes of Mohamed Diame to take a role working with Isaac Hayden to ensure Newcastle United control central midfield, against a visiting Sheffield Wednesday team who will no doubt look to get in the faces of those in black & white.

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