Wednesday night is set to see one of the more interesting Rafa Benitez team/squad selections.
Three valuable points picked up at Griffin Park on Saturday but it was also a game featuring a series of shock injuries to make the United boss’ job extra tricky
It is Birmingham on Wednesday and if Newcastle progress, it will mean United having faced five games in two and a half weeks by the time they have played Derby County on Saturday 4 February.
The schedule reading:
Wed 18 January Newcastle v Birmingham (FA Cup third round replay)
Sat 21 January Newcastle v Rotherham (Championship)
(Weekend of) Sat 28 January Oxford v Newcastle (FA Cup 4th round – If beat Birmingham)
Wed 1 February Newcastle v QPR (Championship)
Sat 4 February Newcastle v Derby (Championship)
As it stands, Newcastle look to be missing at least 11 of their first team squad for the Birmingham FA Cup replay, as follows:
Gamez, Aarons, Mitrovic, Anita, Gayle, Hayden
African Cup of Nations:
Diame, Mbemba, Atsu
Sammy Ameobi, Jamie Sterry
This appears to leave, at a maximum, the following available for FA Cup duty:
Sels, Darlow, Elliot
Clark, Dummett, Hanley, Lazaar, Lascelles, Yedlin, Haidara
Colback, Ritchie, Gouffran, Tiote, Shelvey
On goalkeepers Newcastle at least look fine but when it comes to outfield players for Wednesday night…
“We have to analyse all the options because obviously we have lost some players.
“Sammy Ameobi and Jamie Sterry cannot play in the cup, so we need to analyse the options.
“He (Jonjo Shelvey) may have to play.
“Or I may have to play!”
However, with outfield players it is looking a real dilemma for Rafa Benitez, as Rotherham follows on the Saturday – they might be bottom of the Championship but they beat Norwich on Saturday and have three wins in their last seven league matches, plus no doubt will see coming to St James Park as a free go with nothing to lose.
After missing five matches through suspension, you would imagine Rafa Benitez would have fancied playing him for a limited time tonight at most, with Saturday’s Championship game in mind. However, the options could be even more limited than above.
Tiote is expected to leave any time, Haidara is almost constantly injured and after playing against Birmingham last weekend, wasn’t in the 18 man squad at Brentford, even though returning loan players Sterry and Ameobi were included.
Added to this, Gouffran was injured late in Saturday’s game but had to carry on with three subs used, so there must be a question mark over him – if Tiote, Gouffran and Haidara weren’t available then Rafa would be down to 11 fit outfield first team squad players for this FA Cup tie.
Whatever happens, there looks to be a number of young totally inexperienced players who will at least get a surprise appearance on the bench on Wednesday night…and/or Rafa Benitez!