It’s not long now until the teams will be announced for today’s FA Cup clash with Watford and we’ve had stab at predicting the side Rafa will start.
It’s hard to second guess the Spaniard – especially when it’s not yet known if we’ll be going full strength or fielding several youngsters and fringe men – but this is the side we think could start:
(4-2-3-1) – Woodman – Yedlin, Fernandez, Clark, Manquillo – Hayden, Longstaff – Ritchie, Perez, Kenedy – Joselu.
It looks like Darlow won’t be leaving this month and is back in training after several weeks out, but I expect Woodman to get another shot in goal.
At full-back the likes of Manquillo and Sterry will be hoping to get more game time, but Rafa could field a slightly stronger side given we’re up against Premier League opposition with a superior squad to us. I think Yedlin and Manquillo may start.
Fernandez missed Cardiff through illness but has returned to training this week, so I expect him to start. Lejeune may be given another run out, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Clark start alongside the Argentine, with Lascelles, Lejeune and Schar having all played the full 90 last weekend.
In the middle of the park we’re hardly spoilt for choice right now. Shelvey and Diame are ‘better’ according to Benitez but neither will be risked, so I can’t see beyond a Hayden and Longstaff pairing once again.
Like Fernandez, Kenedy missed Cardiff due to ‘illness’ so I’m quite sure he’ll start this one. There’s talk of Murphy going out on loan, but it’s been confirmed that he WILL be in the squad. Another chance for Callum Roberts would’ve been nice, but I think Rafa will go for a stronger side in this one – meaning the likes of Perez, Ritchie and Atsu may start.
Rondon could well be rested after yet another tireless and invaluable all round display in the 3-0 win over Cardiff. With that in mind, Muto away at the Asian Cup and Sorensen now on loan at Blackpool, I’d put money on Joselu starting up top.
It would not surprise me in the slightest if Rafa went a little more full strength and played the likes of Rondon and Dubravka, but with Man City at home in just over 72 hours time, he may rest a few of our key men.
Time will tell..