This Saturday sees another big opportunity for Rafa and his players, the predicted Newcastle team v West Ham below.
Who will Rafa Benitez go for?
For some people, they cling to the idea of always sticking with a winning team.
However, Rafa Benitez has often shown in the past that he will do whatever he thinks is right, no matter what the result in the previous match.
At his press conference on Friday, the manager indicated that Jonjo Shelvey, Karl Darlow, Yoshinori Muto and Jamaal Lascelles are all available now.
Paul Dummett the only player definitely not involved, though even he is now apparently nearing a return.
Both Florian Lejeune and Jamie Sterry have now completed at least one full training session the NUFC boss stated, though surely no chance of either of these longer term injured going straight into the starting eleven.
An interesting selection awaits then, though I don’t see Rafa Benitez changing the personnel too much after the win at Burnley.
Rafa played with three centre-backs at Burnley, Fernandez, Schar and Clark, to help deal with their two big strikers. It worked really well, apart form the consolation goal by Vokes.
I can see all three staying in the team but with a different threat posed by West Ham with the likes of Arnautovic, I think he will revert to a back four.
Lascelles wouldn’t be a massive surprise if selected but I just can’t see either Schar or Fernandez (especially) being left out, so I think they will play in the middle. Whilst in the absence of a natural replacement for Dummett, at least until the transfer window, I don’t think Manquillo gives a better option than Clark.
The Republic of Ireland international isn’t a natural full-back but he is left footed, a decent defender and can pass the ball better than Manquillo. The Spaniard is maybe more mobile but I can’t see that being enough to get him in the team.
Kenedy and Ritchie both had decent games at Burnley and nobody putting any pressure on their places either.
In the middle it is more interesting, as Shelvey must be approaching full fitness after being named on Monday’s bench. If he was to come back into the team then you’d assume Rafa would see him as an alternative to Ki – but the South Korean was arguably Newcastle’s best player on Monday (and against Bournemouth), so I fancy Shelvey to stay on the bench.
Salomon Rondon will obviously stay in the team, which leaves one position to fill.
A lot of speculation that Newcastle will bring in Miguel Almiron to fill that number 10 spot in January but until then we wait and see what Rafa does in the meantime.
Ayoze Perez was once again Newcastle’s weakest player against Burnley and with Muto now available, I can see Rafa bringing him back in to add some pace up front.
Not an easy team selection for Rafa Benitez as finally he has a number of positive decisions/choices to make:
A team that will hopefully deliver a fourth win in a row.