Not long to go now, only 12 days until the Premier League season kicks off once again for Newcastle United.
Before then of course, we have the earlier than previous closing of the summer transfer window.
Newcastle fans wondering who will, and who won’t, be at St James Park once the clock ticks around to 5pm on Thursday 9 August.
So who do you think will be in the Newcastle team v Tottenham?
Personally, I have a feeling that it will be looking very familiar…
Starting at the back, Martin Dubravka is a no-brainer. His stunning saves against Porto on Saturday night a reminder of how good he was in the final months of last season.
In front of him, Yedlin and Dummett still have no competition whatsoever at full-back, then Jamaal Lascelles will of course captain the team.
Playing alongside him, I think it is pretty nailed on that we will see Ciaran Clark stepping in after the sad injury to Florian Lejeune. Fabian Schar got 25 minutes against Porto and no doubt will get more time on the pitch against both Braga and Augsburg – but I can’t see Rafa rushing him in when he has the reliable Clark available.
In front of them, Diame and Shelvey are showing signs in the friendlies that they can pick up from where they left off back in May and whilst Ki Sung-yueng is a decent squad addition, it would be a massive surprise if Rafa split up the Diame/Shelvey partnership.
On the wings, very hard to see why the manager would think for a second beyond Ritchie and Kenedy. The Brazilian has missed Hull and Porto after the birth of his daughter but will be playing on that opening day against Spurs.
Then it gets interesting, kind of.
By the end of August it may be a very different story but I can’t see past Perez and Joselu to start the season.
Not what most people would want to hear of course…but that is the grim reality.
Rafa Benitez is waiting on a work permit for Yoshinori Muto but even if that comes through in the very near future, I can’t see any way he will be starting against Tottenham. The Newcastle boss likes to spend a lot of time preparing his team and with Muto also having had an extended break after the World Cup, the very best will surely be a place on the bench on the opening day.
As for the main striking position, changes in and out look all but guaranteed to happen, with at least one if not two strikers coming in.
However, Joselu has started all three friendlies so far and will very likely do the same against Braga on Wednesday night. Dwight Gayle looks on his way out and after 45 minutes against St Patrick’s Athletic, Rafa didn’t take him to Hull and then Gayle was the only senior outfield player to not get on the pitch against Porto.
Even if Rondon and/or somebody else was signed now, they wouldn’t be involved against Braga and maybe not even get a game next Saturday when Augsburg are at St James Park, unless things were sorted very quickly.
With Rafa Benitez’ attention to detail and wanting to drill his team before matches, I just can’t see Rondon or any other new striker in the starting Newcastle team v Tottenham.
Dwight Gayle is set to go, which leaves…Joselu.
How many would have predicted this team above to be very likely kicking off the season for NUFC?