Steve Bruce hasn’t had a reason to change his Newcastle side so far this month thanks to back-to-back wins over West Ham and Bournemouth, but that feeling has changed ahead of Saturday’s clash with Manchester City.
Not only did several players disappoint in Monday night’s toothless display at Villa Park, we now have Sean Longstaff back from suspension and two key men fit again in Florian Lejeune and Fabian Schar.
With this in mind, Bruce may well be toying with these FOUR selection dilemmas ahead of Man City’s visit:
- Does he bring Schar and Lejeune back into defence?
- Does he bring Sean Longstaff in and drop Shelvey?
- Does he drop Almiron and give Atsu another chance?
- Does he drop Joelinton and give Gayle or Carroll a rare start?
Starting with Schar and Lejeune, I don’t expect the latter to start given he wasn’t even named on the bench on Monday, but Bruce may be tempted to play both given ability on the ball (we’ll have to be good to keep it!), reading of the game and calmness under pressure will be key against the champions.
I fully expect Schar to return, however, especially when Dummett failed to take his chance at Villa, switching off uncharacteristically for their second.
In midfield, Bruce may feel that Shelvey’s ability to quickly turn defence into attack and set us away on the counter with his long-range passing could be key against a Man City side who’ll have at least 70% of the ball. That said, the fact we’ll have to endure long spells without the ball could be a reason to bring back in the more energetic and disciplined Longstaff?
Up top, both Almiron and Joelinton looked woefully short on confidence or quality at Villa – despite promising displays in our two games prior – and many believe it’s time they were taken out of the firing line.
I think Atsu hasn’t done a lot wrong when’s he’s featured so may deserve a recall, meaning Almiron would drop out, but I don’t see how it works putting one of Carroll or Gayle in for Joelinton.
The Brazilian really did struggle at Villa, but Gayle doesn’t seem to touch the ball whatsoever in this system (his hold up play and physicality would be much poorer than Joelinton’s), while Carroll doesn’t look fit or mobile enough to play from the start in a game where counter attacking will be key.
What do you think Steve Bruce will opt for come 12.30pm Saturday?