Predicted Newcastle team v Swansea – 3 changes
There are three changes in this Newcastle team v Swansea below.
Rafa Benitez has shown in his 18 months at St James Park that he is always willing to make brave decisions when it comes to team selection, I think he will do the same on Sunday.
Some believe in not changing a winning team but Rafa showed regularly last season in the Championship that he was very much up for doing that.
One change is enforced anyway, with Paco (standing in for Rafa) confirming at Friday’s press conference that Chancel Mbemba would be missing due to his injury picked up on international duty.
He also indicated that as well as Shelvey now free from suspension – Gayle, Yedlin and Lejeune are all possibilities to come back into the team after injury.
Against West Ham, Newcastle lined up in the usual 4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1, with Elliot, Manquillo, Lascelles, Clark, Mbemba, Ritchie, Merino, Hayden, Atsu, Perez, Joselu.
A number of options now present at the back and I can see Rafa Benitez reverting to what was basically his first choice defence on the opening day – apart from Paul Dummett still injured.
So assuming they are ready to play, I think Rafa will bring both Yedlin and Lejeune back in, with Manquillo shifting to left-back where he has played previously. Clark and Lejeune looked good together in pre-season and whilst they were both on the pitch against Spurs, so Lascelles could drop to the bench.
I think most of the rest of the team is easy to predict, with Elliot staying in goal and the midfield/wingers staying in place.
However, I don’t think Dwight Gayle will be thrown straight back in, he will be handy as an impact sub and Joselu put in a decent all-round game against West Ham and scored, so he must surely start tomorrow.
The big decision and the big problem position for Newcastle in the last 13 months or so, is the number 10 spot.
Ayoze Perez offers so little that I think it is a no-brainer that Rafa could give Shelvey a try there in a free position where he can hopefully pull the strings further up the pitch.
Mikel Merino has added extra quality in the middle of the pitch and he is well capable of threading balls through to Shelvey in advanced positions.
So this is my predicted Newcastle team v Swansea:
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