This is the formation and Newcastle team v West Brom which I believe is destined to take the pitch tonight.
A win for Newcastle takes them six points clear of West Brom who are currently fourth bottom, as well as within three points of Rafa’s halfway target total with five games to spare.
Conversely, a win for the home team puts them level on points with Newcastle and if they win by two or more, they go above NUFC.
To me it is a no-brainer that in those circumstances and especially after four defeats in a row, that Rafa will be simply focused on ensuring Newcastle do not get beat and return to Tyneside with at least a point.
As it happens, circumstances may have come together to allow him to put more or less his ideal team out to do just that.
Whilst Jamaal Lascelles will still be missing, two players are set to return to the team.
It is sure to be a very ‘competitive’ game in the middle of the pitch and I think Rafa will make sure he has the numbers in there to have as much control as possible.
Mikel Merino was only able to start from the bench against Watford but after that sub appearance and a few more days training he should be able to start at the Hawthorns.
Isaac Hayden was absent due to five bookings and a one match ban and his energy was missed against Watford, he will also surely come in.
To accommodate that, I think Rafa Benitez will play Jonjo Shelvey as well in the middle but forget about playing two up front or a second striker, instead relying on Dwight Gayle to do the lone role and hope to get the odd chance when Gayle can use his pace behind the Baggies defence.
Switching back to one up front and having three central midfielders, will then allow the likes of Matt Ritchie to do a better job of working with Yedlin on the right, rather than leaving him isolated as happened on Saturday.
Rob Elliot and his back four haven’t done themselves any favours in the last two games but difficult to see any changes due to the lack of options, unless Rafa chose to give Jesus Gamez a game in either of the full-back positions.
My predicted Newcastle team v West Brom:
West Brom v Newcastle Match Betting:
All West Brom v Newcastle betting HERE
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