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These ‘options’ for Liverpool match tell you how tough (impossible?) Rafa Benitez job is

6 months ago
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Rafa Benitez is surveying his ‘options’ for Saturday.

Newcastle are up against a Liverpool side who are in supreme form.

The scousers involved in the highest quality title fight ever seen in the Premier League era, winning their last 10 matches (Premier League and Champions League) and scoring goals for fun (29 in those last 10 games).

Meanwhile, in the black and white corner, Saturday’s second half at Brighton suggested this is a team now desperate to reach the end of the season, only a few injuries exposing the wafer thin squad available to the Newcastle manager this season.

Brighton were so poor and stand-offish in the first half that they made Newcastle look decent, but once they just put a bit of effort in and actually pushed up the pitch and pressed the visitors, I can’t even remember NUFC getting in the opposition box.

So can Rafa pull off one more massive result at St James Park, a game that could be his last in charge there…

With six wins out the last seven at home and 15 goals scored, the bare stats suggest Newcastle can give Liverpool a real game.

However, those victories have been achieved by relying on the same players week after week.

It very much mirrors last season, when the late run of form from February to April saw Rafa Benitez stick with pretty much the same team week after week, which produced impressive victories over the likes of Arsenal and Man Utd (and Chelsea on the final day of the season) at home, as well as Leicester away.

Getting back to the here and now and Miguel Almiron was badly missed on Saturday, with potentially Ayoze Perez also now set to be on the sidelines after being forced off with an injury at Brighton.

I saw one of the journalists this week discussing the alternative ‘options’ Rafa has available and it does make you think what could have happened if injuries to the likes of Rondon, Almiron and Perez had hit earlier.

Joselu

Has only started one Premier League game since September and it was a similar story last season, although Rafa felt he had to persevere with him longer back then. Joselu not starting another PL match after January last season.

We know all too well his limitations by now, ironic that he did score in this fixture last season, albeit by relying on Lovren to kick the ball off him!

Kenedy

Or should that be, the player formerly known as Kenedy?

Has been absolutely shocking this season and kept that form up when playing the final hour at Brighton as Perez’ replacement. No starts since Boxing Day and a player who has looked to be on the beach all season, never mind the final few weeks of it.

Barreca

Playing him as a wing-back and utilising Matt Rtchie elsewhere, has been one suggestion.

Totally pointless giving him a game in my opinion, as clearly no intention of keeping him at the club. It says it all that Rafa has only selected him on the bench twice, never mind starting him.

Christian Atsu

Surprisingly, he has been involved in 26 of Newcastle’s 36 Premier League games this season, equally split between starting and off the bench.

However, hasn’t contributed a single goal or assist in those 26 games this season. Rarely looks a threat to the opposition and that was the case at Brighton. Newcastle’s run of form that took them to early safety coincided with Almiron replacing Atsu in the team.

Yoshinori Muto

One PL start since 3 November and sadly, the summer signing appears to offer absolutely nothing.

Has this uncanny knack of running around a lot but very rarely touches the ball.

Five ‘options’ for Rafa Benitez that aren’t rarely options at all, instead they are overwhelming proof of just how desperately short on quality the squad is.

Some would point out that all five have been signed by this manager but two were bargain buys (Joselu and Atsu) so Rafa at least had a squad, Kenedy has badly let his NUFC boss down, whilst Barreca looks to be a player that was offered to Benitez as a last gasp loan signing, after the club failed to land his first (and no doubt second, third…) choice options for a left wing-back in January.

I think it is only Muto where Rafa Benitez has to hold his hands up, just short of £10m on a player who looks nowhere near Premier League standard.

Here’s hoping Rafa can pull a team together against Liverpool, without have to rely on the handful of players above.

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