One of the big questions for Rafa Benitez is just who he replaces Jonjo Shelvey with.

It looks obvious that the back four will be what finished the Spurs match after the injuries to Dummett and Lejeune.

However, the pivotal centre of midfield is a different matter.

There looks to be three candidates (answer our quick poll question below) to start at Huddersfield alongside Isaac Hayden but who should Rafa go for?

Last season you would have assumed Jack Colback, who was the main back up to the Hayden/Shelvey partnership but Rafa clearly wants him out of the club and he didn’t even take part in Thursday’s public training session. Could though Rafa give him this chance to prove him wrong?

In pre-season, Mohamed Diame was used a number of times in a deeper midfield role, as well as once or twice last season. He was recovering from injury last weekend and wasn’t named in the squad, so could he be the wrong.

Mikel Merino has came in this summer and impressed with brief appearances, including late on in that Spurs game. However, he is very inexperienced and has only started two games in the top tier of any league, so would Rafa risk him.

Talking about the Spaniard before today’s match he gave nothing away, saying ‘he can play, but will need time because he’s only a young player’, a brave decision to play him or worth the ‘inexperience’ risk?

Rafa Benitez talking about Mikel Merino ahead of Huddersfield:

“Mikel Merino is a player with a lot of confidence.

“He is a good professional and he has settled down already.

“The rest of the players love him. It’s guaranteed that he can go to another level as a professional, as a person, as a player.

“The rest of his teammates love him already.

“He is fine, he has no problems.

“He can play, he will need some time because he’s only a young player, but I think he has all the potential to be a very good player.”

Quick poll below, will put the result up before Huddersfield kick-off so please vote now.




  • X,WHY,Y MAN.

    It’s a tough one but knowing Rafa he will go for the practical approach and stay in the game first.
    Out of the three he may go for Diame to start who has played in what will today be a Championship kind of game and he is the type who “Might” be able to nick a goal.
    Merino might be introduced later into the game depending on how it is going.

    Colback is a liability of Shelvey proportions and he would be mad to go with him imo.

    • Toonrobbybobson

      Of shelvey proportions??? No way. Shelvey is a player when his head is right Colback never has been and loves to give freekicks away wide of the box to be whipped in…

      • X,WHY,Y MAN.

        So you are saying Colback isn’t rash and flies in giving away free kicks and receiving Yellow cards ?
        He’s later than a British Rail Train at times and is an accident waiting to happen.

        • Sean Lynch

          He’s saying that Shelvey has the occasional moment of madness. Whilst Colback is so much of a liability he shouldn’t be allowed near the dressing room never mind play for us.
          I completely agree with his assessment :)

    • GeordieZebra

      Cannot see us playing Perez if Gayle starts, so likely Merino and Diame starting in my opinion!

  • Paul Patterson

    Diame will start with Hayden in the middle with Perez behind Joselu.
    Merino, Gayle and Murphy will come on later as and how the game pans out . .