Friday brought confirmation that Newcastle will be without defensive duo Daryl Janmaat and club Captain Fabricio Coloccini for the visit of Swansea on Saturday afternoon. It means that Benitez’s options in defence are limited and once again he will have to cobble together a make-shift back four for a crucial Premiership fixture. United’s failure to sign defensive cover during the January window has left them painfully short as horrendous injury problems have once again crippled the Newcastle squad.
Coloccini has been out since before Benitez arrived at the club and suffered a setback this week to remain side-lined with a calf injury. This means that Mbemba will more than likely partner Lascelles at centre half as Steven Taylor is also ruled out, although his form would have seen him benched anyway.
Benitez does have some decisions to make at full back though. Paul Dummett should start at left back if fit enough although Jack Colback’s return to the squad could see him play in that role. Kevin Mbabu’s return to the squad could see him replace Janmaat at right back but Vernon Anita is more likely to start as Mbabu is still short of match sharpness.
The most intriguing aspect of the game lies in midfield as Jonjo Shelvey lines up against his former club as captain of his current one. It would have been nice for Colo to have played to take the burden of captaincy away from Shelvey who has struggled for form since wearing the armband. But the added responsibility for Shelvey against Swansea could go in Newcastle’s favour as he will have a duty to keep his composure in a fixture filled with emotion. Jack Cork has tried to wind Shelvey up on social media and Swansea will probably try to antagonise the Newcastle captain further throughout the game. Newcastle need Shelvey to handle the situation and have the game of his life. What a story it would be if Shelvey could open his account at Newcastle by scoring the winner against Swansea. He will have dreamt it that way, although I’m sure he’ll settle for the three points, no matter how they come.