Rafa Benitez faces a selection dilemma on Saturday.

After making it three defeats in a row, the Newcastle team need a lift and Watford at home will be now a game which he is even more desperate to get something from, with two away matches following.

A promising opening half hour at Old Trafford and goal for Dwight Gayle, was dealt a killer blow when conceding twice in the final 10 minutes of the first-half, which made the game after the break all but impossible to get something from.

With a number of players already on the injured list, the last thing Rafa needed was to lose more players.

However, Isaac Hayden picked up his fifth booking of the season and now misses Saturday’s date with Watford.

Hayden didn’t have the best of games but like most of the starting eleven, the midfielder pretty much picked himself due to lack of alternatives.

When we reach Saturday it will be eight weeks since Mikel Merino last started for Newcastle.

Ahead of the Man Utd match, Rafa Benitez revealed that he hoped Merino would be joining in with training this week and he would be monitoring him to see whether his back problem had completely healed.

Against a Watford team who play with a very high tempo, it would be a tough game for the Spaniard to return, plus with the pace the opposition have, the United boss may not see a Shelvey/Merino combination as ideal anyway, with speed not a top attribute for either.

The alternatives are not great if Merino doesn’t start, with Jack Colback in exile with the kids, I’m guessing you have a choice of Mohamed Diame who was really poor on his only Premier League start for Newcastle at Burnley, or Henri Saivet to be catapulted straight into the team.

Rafa indicated he would rather play Chancel Mbemba than Jack Colback in his midfield, which gives an even more interesting proposition.

With West Brom away only three days after Watford, it further complicates things, as you would assume Rafa probably wouldn’t play exactly the same eleven in both games.

So far, Newcastle have picked up 25 yellow cards and there have been 25 for the opposition in the matches so far.

Ritchie and Lascelles are the next most at risk having picked up three bookings each.

As well as the yellow cards, Jonjo Shelvey picked up a red. Though of course still no opposition player has been sent off, which has amazingly been the case since January 2014 in Premier League matches.

Newcastle United bookings so far in the 2017/18 season:

5 Isaac Hayden

3 Jamaal Lascelles, Matt Ritchie

2 Joselu, Florian Lejeune, Mikel Merino, DeAndre Yedlin

1 Jonjo Shelvey, Ciaran Clark, Dwight Gayle, Grant Hanley, Javier Manquillo, Ayoze Perez

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  • Paul Patterson

    I think it’s a no brainer that Mbemba does the sitting and defending in the midfield, while Shelvey does his creative stuff.

    • mentalman

      I’ve actually watched Mbemba play in midfield in international games and he’s not one for sitting and defending, he likes to run with the ball which we have already seen when in defence. With Mbemba in midfield we could seamlessly switch to 3 in the back when the full backs are pushing up

    • Benno

      We’re at home to Watford,no sitting midfielder,attack !!!


    As Paul quite rightly says it’s a no brainier.

    Mbemba is as good as our other central defenders, better than Manquillo at right back and probably as good as Hayden.

    He knows how to defend, he is athletic and has good ball control.

  • MadMag83

    It’ll be Diame or Perez

  • Soldier

    Loss of form, injuries mounting up now a ban, 1 win in 7, a poor squad with no decent backup.the wheels are about to come off

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    Chancels your man, pity he`s on Rafa`s schitt list

    • Rich Lawson

      Yes he does seem to be ! But what a difference it could make if both he and Mitro’ (with Gayle) started against Watford .

  • 1957

    Assuming Merino isn’t fit Benitez will opt for SloMo.

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      Jesus, stop spreading rumours like that

  • Rich Lawson

    Stick with 4-4-2 against an inconsistent Watford side and hope the manager goes to Everton before the game !

  • Taz

    Id play a chocolate log before id play Colback