Will Jonjo Shelvey be watching from the bench when Newcastle kick off on Friday night at the City Ground?
Rafa made six changes for the Blackburn match and then a further seven for Hull City on Tuesday, little doubt that we’ll see more tomorrow but will the NUFC playmaker be one of them?
Leaving out your best and most influential player may sound like a little bit of madness but Rafa Benitez has shown he is not afraid to make big calls, when it comes to team selection.
Jonjo Shelvey has featured in all 22 of Newcastle’s matches this season, 19 of them as a starter and three from the bench.
The midfielder was left out of two (Fulham & Bristol City) of the opening four Championship games but since then has played all but seven minutes (subbed late on at home to Ipswich) of the last three and a half months of league football.
On top of that he has started three of the four league cup matches and even the one (Preston) he was given a rest from, he was called into action with an hour still remaining when Jack Colback went off injured.
I think for a number of reasons Rafa Benitez might decide to make that surprise decision and leave the England international out.
Firstly, the sheer amount of football Jonjo Shelvey has played and Rafa wanting to ensure his star man doesn’t end up injured through overdoing it. Only three days apart, Ciaran Clark was the only other person to play every minute of both the Blackburn and Hull games, with a centre-back covering far less distance than a central midfield player.
Secondly, Shelvey was very good in the first half on Tuesday but faded away as the game went on and his usual excellent touch deserted him at times. Suggesting maybe being introduced later on from the bench at Forest will see a better input from him.
Thirdly, maybe after two defeats in a row, Rafa will see reasons for going more defensive and playing any two of Hayden, Colback and Tiote. Forest will be buoyant after two away wins with seven goals scored and only one conceded, so the United boss possibly seeing the need to grind out a draw (and hope to find a winning goal from somewhere) to ensure it doesn’t become three defeats in a week.
Finally, there could be an element of surprise with teams working out a bit better how to try and deal with the current tactics where Jonjo Shelvey is so relied upon.
Whatever Rafa Benitez decides, it will be for the longer-term good and not just throwing everything at this one game.
My money is Jonjo Shelvey to get onto the pitch at Nottingham Forest BUT from the bench, not as a starter.