This is the predicted Newcastle team v Manchester United for Sunday afternoon’s match.
A 2.15pm kick-off at St James Park, with Rafa Benitez desperate to start picking up better results at home.
It will be 113 days since Newcastle last won a Premier League match on home turf when they take on Man Utd.
A point would definitely be one gained rather than one lost but I have a feeling Rafa may have a major surprise for those predicting that this will be a park the bus game.
At Old Trafford, Rafa played with two up front in Joselu and Gayle, as well as two wingers in Ritchie and Murphy – Hayden and Shelvey the central midfielders.
I can see a similar approach on Sunday to the one taken away at Man Utd, Gayle scored an excellent goal and Newcastle could and should have added a second, before then weaknesses at the back leading to soft goals and defeat.
Murphy was played on the right that day and did very well in that first half, linking well with Yedlin.
I can see that partnership being renewed as Rafa Benitez goes with pace once again to try and unsettle Jose Mourinho’s team.
On the other side of the pitch, both Kenedy and Paul Dummett look secure in their positions.
The Geordie left-back has provided a more solid option since his return, whilst Kenedy has impressed with his running on the ball in the opening two games of his loan spell. Both he and Murphy have the youth and pace to get up and down the pitch to help both attack and defence.
I just can’t see the Newcastle boss sitting back and using Ayoze Perez as a more negative fifth midfielder. The former Tenerife player has zero pace and if Newcastle are trying to attack/break fast he isn’t the player to have on the pitch.
I think Rafa Benitez will give a Slimani/Gayle partnership a chance, the Algerian forward is an obvious choice to come into a team whose top scorer only has four goals. Whilst Gayle has largely failed to impress so far this season, along with Slimani he is one of Newcastle’s only two natural goalscorers, and with goals against Chelsea and Man Utd he can (potentially) do it against the better teams.
Both Gayle and Slimani have a good work ethic and will track back, so I don’t think this is defensively weaker than having Perez on the pitch instead.
Capping a strange five or six weeks, Mohamed Diame has now emerged as the first name in central midfield and one of the first on the overall teamsheet.
Alongside him, I think Mikel Merino will be used to give a more secure middle of the pitch to complement the use of two strikers and the wingers. Jonjo Shelvey is shocking defensively a lot of the time and against Palace that was certainly the case, especially in the second-half, Merino is now getting back to full fitness after his back injury and can add a bit of composure as well.
Center-backs – Lascelles and Clark have at times rode their luck recently, including at Selhurst Park, but the fact remains that in the last nine weeks, only twice have Newcastle conceded more than one goal in the Premier League. In those 10 league games, only at West Ham in the 3-2 win and Man City in the 3-1 defeat, have the opposition managed more than a singe goal.
Florian Lejeune is now back fit but there seems little chance of either him or Chancel Mbemba coming in.
The arrival of Martin Dubravka had many fans expecting the loan keeper to go straight into the team v Palace last Sunday.
I found that a bit bizarre, only a few days after arriving, a keeper from a weak Czech Republic league going straight into the Premier League???
Once again I see no chance of Dubravka being thrown in, especially when it is Manchester United, a bit too much to take in surely as a debut in the English top tier.
The question as well would be, why are people so keen to drop Karl Darlow?
He has played the last six games and in five of them conceded a total of three goals, the exception being the 3-1 at Man City. He even almost saved the penalty at Palace last weekend.
Darlow has made a lot of very good saves and whilst he isn’t great at commanding his box, neither is Rob Elliot and Dubravka is a complete unknown in that department.
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