Predicted Newcastle team v Watford on Saturday
After Rafa Benitez experienced the heaviest defeat of his Newcastle career on Wednesday, this is the predicted Newcastle team v Watford below.
It was of course the reverse fixture that provided Newcastle with their first victory of the season.
That was only eight weeks ago but feels an awful lot longer.
The one goal victory sparking a full return of nine points from nine and manager of the month for Rafa Benitez.
December has been a different matter, three defeats, two draws and that single win at Huddersfield where Newcastle toughed it out.
On Friday, Rafa revealed that his only two players definitely ruled out through injury are Ciaran Clark and Karl Darlow, whilst Ki Sung-yeung is away on international duty.
However, with a number of centre-back options, the manager also indicated that he was looking at the FA Cup match next Saturday for Florian Lejeune’s comeback, rather than rushing him back any earlier in the more demanding Premier League.
Rafa Benitez made six changes for the game at Anfield and it is guaranteed that there will be some more today…
Martin Dubravka of course will start, whilst in front of him, fans will wonder whether Rafa will persevere with a back five.
He was at pains on Friday to say that the heavy defeat at Liverpool was more about individual mistakes rather than due to the system/formation.
I think he will definitely go back five again but bring Fabian Schar back in as one of his three central defenders, though keep Dummett in the team as a nominal left wing-back, even though in reality he will be just another out and out defender.
With Clark injured and Lejeune waited with, that means Lascelles and Fernandez are also in the middle.
With Dummett as a ‘wing-back’ on one side, it then gives Yedlin more freedom to get forward without needing to worry as much about his defensive responsibilities.
It looks a very defensive formation but Rafa Benitez’ top priority today will be trying to get a clean sheet, with anything else a bonus.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that Diame and Hayden together leaves Newcastle even more severely limited going forward, so Shelvey looks certain to come back in if anywhere near fully fit, with Diame retaining his place.
Salomon Rondon is naturally a no-brainer up front after being rested at Anfield, leaving two supporting slots.
In such a generally negative set-up, Rafa Benitez needs to have something that might unsettle Watford.
Kenedy is obviously not reliable but at least he is the only one who is really willing to run with the ball, in a more free role he could potentially create something out of nothing.
In a side with so little pace, I think Muto might get another chance. He looked lively at Liverpool but the supply line was almost non-existent for most of the game. The striker heads off to the Asian Cup after Man Utd on Wednesday and I think Rafa Benitez might try and get something out of him before he departs.
Interestingly, after checking, I found that this predicted line-up contains 10 of the players who started in that 1-0 home win over Watford, the only difference being Schar playing instead of Ritchie.
That game of course saw three enforced changes that ended up helping to turn the game, as Schar, Ki and Perez, replaced Lascelles, Shelvey and Muto.
This is the last game before the transfer window opens and reality is of course that Rafa Benitez needs some better quality options to be added, rather than just having to recycle the same old players in the hope of getting a little bit extra from them.
This being my predicted Newcastle team v Watford:
A team that will hopefully see Rafa Benitez eke out at least one more point for the total.
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