This weekend, Rafa’s Magpies make the three hour journey down the M6 to take on a Preston North End side no doubt wounded from their 6-0 Cupset midweek. In what was firmly expected to be a much tighter game, a vibrant Newcastle side put 10 man Preston to the sword to book an EFL last 8 match-up against Hull City.
And now, with a rematch looming, I feel the dynamics of Saturday’s contest will be completely different to that of Tuesday’s win for four reasons:
- Home advantage for Preston (the obvious one)
- The size of Deepdale’s pitch
- Selection headaches abound
It hasn’t been long since the last time NUFC had a cup/league double header – against Wolves last month in fact, where both sides claimed one scalp a-piece. We were a mess, if truth be told in our first game against Wolves but dramatically improved in the midweek outing to progress further in the EFL Cup.
This time around we were stunning in our first match against Preston North End, so will our second match-up be ill fated in a reversal of what happened against Wolves?
The main conduit that will help Rafa’s men pick up all three points on Saturday will without doubt be the ability to switch up our style of play to suit a smaller pitch such as Deepdale’s. Looking back to midweek, playing a 10 men side on a pitch the size of SJP is small fry for the likes of Jonjo Shelvey who can zip the ball around with ease. So the question is, what do we do when faced with cramped conditions against a side desperate for redemption? The answer – fight fire, with fire.
With many of Newcastle’s slow starters of the season i.e. Perez and Diame now starting to find their feet also, Rafa certainly has some tough decisions to make this evening. But I feel this match is made for our more guttural midfield and attacking fighters. Whilst not expected to start, target man Daryl Murphy may be a savvy inclusion in Benitez’s squad should he wish to bring him on to see the game out with 20 minutes to go.
As good as Clark has been this season, I’d favour the slightly more physical Mbemba to line up along side our skipper. Elsewhere I feel the front two picks themselves with both Mitrovic and Gayle being partial to plenty of goals recently.
Preferred line-up (4-4-2)