Saturday sees the first away game of the season after losing to Spurs last weekend, my predicted Newcastle team v Cardiff is below.
Already I think we will see a number of changes to Rafa’s side, for what looks a crunch game.
Cardiff are seen as the likely whipping boys this season as they try to bridge the gap from Championship to top tier.
With the three following matches all against clubs from last season’s top six, tomorrow’s game is huge.
Marin Dubravka will start obviously but I think we will see two changes in front of him.
Great news to hear that DeAndre Yedlin has no major injury to deal with after limping off last Saturday but despite returning now to training, I think Rafa will be looking after the USMNT international and almost certainly go for Manquillo as his short-term replacement.
Against Tottenham, Newcastle struggled to defend crosses in both open play and set-pieces, with Florian Lejeune missing.
I don’t think Ciaran Clark did too bad but the more imposing Federico Fernandez could be set to play. He was left out of the squad for Tottenham after he’d just signed but he had a full pre-season with Swansea and even played in their opening Championship match, so no fitness issues with him. Fernandez will be in the squad tomorrow and only a question of whether he starts or not, after a full week of training with his new teammates I think he will. Especially with one of Cardiff’s main hope for goals being from corners and other set-pieces.
Across the middle of the pitch I don’t anticipate any changes, bar injury.
Ritchie and Kenedy were Newcastle’s best two players against Spurs, whilst despite up and down performances, Diame and Shelvey will surely carry on as automatic first choice in centre midfield.
Up front though the places are up for grabs, certainly in my opinion anyway.
Salomon Rondon has certainly being brought in by Rafa to be first choice and it is just a case of when he presses that button. That would be Saturday for me, as with Joselu and Perez you get such a lack of pace and hold up play through the middle is so poor.
Rondon did enough in his half hour against Spurs to get a start in Wales, his strength could be crucial in ensuring Newcastle get an early foothold in the match, as Cardiff are sure to throw everything at it in the opening stages.
After a more promising spell towards the end of last season, Ayoze Perez was back to his most frustrating and anonymous worst last weekend. Muto looked to be an all-action player when he came on and very good at pressuring and closing down the opposition.
I can see the likes of Kenedy, Ritchie and Muto looking good on the counter-attack, plus of course the Japanese striker has a decent goalscoring record in the Bundesliga, certainly decent compared to Newcastle’s other goalscoring options.
A difficult team selection for Rafa Benitez but this is how I think they will line up:
Cardiff v Newcastle Match Betting:
All Cardiff v Newcastle betting HERE