Preferred Newcastle team v Fulham
Looking ahead to Sunday and the Newcastle team v Fulham.
The injury / fitness situation make it a tough one to predict.
This final game of the season could have meant a lot…but thanks to a fortunate upturn in form (and a woeful collapse by Fulham) it’s one of the more meaningless games of the day.
Most eyes will be on the higher end of the Premier League table to see who will clinch the various European places.
Meanwhile for Newcastle fans, depending on the results of this last game of this bitterly disappointing season, we could finish anywhere between 12th and 17th. Which could mean a big chunk of cash that could (possibly) be used to finance some level of squad improvement.
Given the doubts in terms of injury / fitness status, it’s quite hard to predict this starting eleven, as Willock, Dubravka, ASM and Joelinton were all substituted and / or struggling by the end of the game with Sheffield United. Bruce has since reported that Willock was simply fatigued, Dubravka and Joelinton just knocks, and ASM had a slight issue, and all should be fit to start on Sunday.
Should is a dangerous concept though.
Here’s my choice, along with contingencies “should” any of the above not be passed fit.
Dubravka made it through the game and some discomfort aside, had a pretty easy game of it against Sheffield United.
Darlow remains out, so should the Slovakian not pass fit, it’ll be Gillespie getting a Premier League debut.
I’d be less confident if this is the case, as Dubravka is undoubtedly one of our most consistent players, while Gillespie’s performances in the League cup weren’t exactly world beating.
Centre-Backs: Krafth, Schar and Dummett
Krafth and Dummett have been solid in the past couple of games (Krafth) and whenever he’s played (Dummett), so I’d keep them in the XI. Schar probably would have started a couple more games at the tail end of the season if not for the unfortunate (not to mention unfair) red card at Arsenal.
Fernandez drops out for me- only because he was shaky against City and I’d rather see Schar in the centre so he can step out and display his passing range. Lascelles is unlikely to be fit for this one so Clark will be the only other option to choose from.
Wing-Backs: Ritchie and Murphy
These two are probably the only good wing-back options we have at the moment, showing the need for some reinforcement in this department over the summer. Manquillo and Lewis are decent, but too defensive to play at wing back in my opinion, and let’s never mention Dummett or Krafth at wing-back ever again please.
Midfield: Willock, Shelvey and Almiron OR Shelvey, M. Longstaff and Willock OR Shelvey, M. Longstaff and S. Longstaff
Again, an actual inclusion for Shelvey in this one, mainly because if Fulham fail to press him as Sheffield United did, he may actually get some decent passes off and kick off some good moves.
Willock and Almiron are no-brainers to start if they’re both fit, as their industry allows Shelvey to not worry about covering lots of the pitch and focus on what he’s good at.
For injury contingencies, if Willock is injured, I’d bring in Matty Longstaff, as he seems to have more industry and energy about him, and if Almiron is moved forward (more on that later), I’d bring in Sean Longstaff as he’s relatively consistent in his passing and drive, but most importantly – he is not Jeff Hendrick.
As a final caveat, if Elliot Anderson is fit, I’d like to see him get some minutes, see if we’ve managed to get another decent youth prospect out of the academy.
Attack: ASM + Joelinton OR Almiron + Joelinton OR Almiron + Gayle
Again, a few injury contingencies here.
Obviously ASM and Joelinton are the clear starters available, if they are available…
If ASM is out, I’d bring in Almiron to replicate his running and pressing ability, and if Joelinton is out, I’d bring in Gayle because…well it’s that or Carroll, and Gayle is the lesser of two evils.
Lots of caveats and ifs and buts, but hopefully we’ll have enough of a team to put on a decent show, and end this season on a high.
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