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Opinion

The unspoken Rafa Benitez threat to Newcastle stars playing for their country

1 year ago
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Rafa Benitez was quizzed after Saturday’s match about players potentially getting into the England squad.

The presence of Gareth Southgate in the crowd at St James Park, had led to much speculation about the possibility of Jamaal Lascelles and/or Jonjo Shelvey getting their chance.

Lascelles has really grown into the Premier League this season and despite having made only 18 starts in the top tier, he is looking the part.

Jonjo Shelvey has had a less smooth journey in these opening months of the campaign but only two years ago he was a regular in the England squad, so no reason why he can’t force his way back into the reckoning.

Newcastle have nobody involved in the England senior squad at the minute but the likes of Elliot, Yedlin, Mbemba, Atsu, Ritchie, and Clark, have been regulars heading out of Tyneside during the international breaks.

However, if Shelvey and/or Lascelles do get the call, they may be thinking twice before deciding whether it is a positive or not, especially if they talk to some of the other members of the Newcastle squad.

Mikel Merino and Ciaran Clark starred in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool on Sunday 1 October, they then went away with their respective international teams.

On their return they surprisingly found themselves dropped to the bench for the game at Southampton, with Isaac Hayden and Florian Lejeune taking their place. Worse was to follow for the duo as Rafa Benitez kept the same team or Saturday’s win over Crystal Palace.

Before the previous international break, Newcastle beat West Ham 3-0 on 26 August with Christian Atsu excellent on the left as he set up the first goal, Chancel Mbemba also doing very well behind him in the left-back sport.

After the internationals Newcastle played at Swansea and both were left out, Jacob Murphy and Jesus Gamez getting very rare starts.

Last season there were odd instances as well, of Rafa Benitez at times leaving players out who had been away with their countries.

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The United boss is famed for his meticulous preparations before each game and the explanation previously given, is that when he hasn’t got the chance to work with his regular first team players, he would rather work with some of those squad players left behind and prepare them to play instead.

Nobody could have forecast that Mikel Merino and Ciaran Clark would suddenly be left out.

Merino might be too big a miss and able to force his way in, ahead of potentially Hayden or Shelvey.

However, in Ciaran Clark’s case in particular, he now finds Florian Lejeune with the shirt, having looked excellent in these past two games. The Frenchman looking a knocking bet to keep his place on Monday for the match at Burnley.

Rafa Benitez is also notorious for loving competition within his squad and I wonder if the likes of Jamaal Lascelles and Jonjo Shelvey will be in two minds if they did get a call-up?

Chances are that they would only be going along as squad members anyway with little chance of a game, yet putting their Newcastle places in jeopardy, both short-term and potentially longer.
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