Here is the predicted Newcastle team v Stoke City that I think Rafa Benitez will choose for this afternoon at St James Park.
Rafa returns to take charge of his team for this Stoke match, having had the slightly different view of watching at home on his TV last weekend.
Despite the win and overall god performance, I don’t think that will prevent the United boss making changes.
Throughout his career, Rafa Benitez he is prepared to change a winning team, and that has continued into his 18 months at Newcastle.
However, I think that it usually happens within certain parameters and certain players/positions are kept in place unless his hand is forced – this was evident last season as well.
I think it is more the attacking/creative positions where Rafa is happy to chop and change to freshen things up and keep players interested, which I reckon could be the case today.
Rafa indicating at his press conference on Friday that some players may even find out to their surprise that they haven’t even made the matchday 18, as he has everybody available apart from Haidara, Dummett and Mitrovic.
The back five added a second clean sheet in a row and I think for the time being, Manquillo will still keep his place ahead of fit again DeAndre Yedlin, but it will be a close run thing.
Can’t see Rafa changing his keeper or centre-backs at the moment but I do see change at left-back.
Jesus Gamez did ok at Swansea after getting skinned a couple of times early on at Swansea but I think some fans were going a little over the top post-match. Yes he looked decent going forward but that does look his strength and as Swansea’s defensive threat diminished, so did the pressure down his side of the pitch – allowing him to get up the field.
Against Stoke, it will be more about defending that side of the pitch and with Shaqiri one of Stoke’s biggest threats, I see Chancel Mbemba coming straight back in now he is fit again. Not his ideal position but he’s a far better defender than Gamez.
Merino and Hayden are working well together, whilst Ritchie and Joselu look to have their places secured after playing well in the wins over West Ham and Swansea.
However, I do see Rafa shaking it up with a couple of changes in his players supporting the lone striker.
Jacob Murphy didn’t show a lot at Swansea, working hard but not looking ready to offer much threat as yet. Whilst when Christian Atsu came on, Rafa won’t have been impressed to see the Ghanaian lose possession in good situations, allowing Swansea to break when Newcastle had men committed forward.
Rolando Aarons didn’t even make the bench last Sunday but Rafa gave him 45 minutes for the reserves on Monday night and I think he could be in line for his first start of the season on the left.
Also making a surprise appearance for the second string was Jonjo Shelvey and I think Rafa will also find a place for him.
Shelvey ended up playing the full 90 minutes due to the third sub having to be made because of an injury, the midfielder looking in good shape and just failing with a 70 yard shot that had the keeper beaten but went just past the post.
Ayoze Perez was one of the few who contributed little to that win at Swansea and I think Shelvey will return and maybe play in an advanced role behind Joselu, or as part of a more fluid midfield trio alongside Hayden and Merino.
My predicted Rafa Benitez Newcastle team v Stoke:
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