Some Tough Decisions Facing Rafa Ahead of Villa Clash

Rafa Benitez is no stranger to making big decisions, in fact, throughout his career it has been something that he has seemed to thrive on.

Benitez, being one of the top managers in the world, is used to making these decisions, and he is used to getting them right.

However, with the race for promotion beginning to come to the end, he needs to ensure that his team do not slip up in games like tomorrow night.

Villa come to St. James’ in very poor form, and despite being a huge club, there does seem to be a very real threat that they may be dragged into the relegation battle.

Simply put, this is a must win for both teams, but it is a game that we cannot afford to slip-up in.

With this in mind, just what are the biggest decisions that Rafa will have to make tomorrow?

The first, and arguably most important, is regarding his striking options. Aleksandar Mitrovic has missed a lot of chances of late, and with top scorer Dwight Gayle now seemingly fit, Mitrovic may well miss out.

Secondly, Rafa must decide whether to stick with Ayoze Perez or recall Mo Diame.

Diame is undoubtedly one of Newcastle’s best players, but then again, Ayoze is technically gifted and has an eye for goal, and after playing so well in the last game, Ayoze may well get the nod to start tomorrow.

97 thoughts on “Some Tough Decisions Facing Rafa Ahead of Villa Clash

  1. Jake: you might have an argument with a few people about whether Diame is one of NUFC’s better players. I am still on the fence. He is very direct and runs well with the ball, but too often has no end product either with the final pass or shot – remind you of anyone? Yes, he sometimes reminds me of Sissoko which is why I am still on the fence. At least he only cost 5 million and we received 30 for Sissucko so if he is that player we made a 25 million profit.

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  2. These are the games that worry me Jake, Villa are one of those teams that we never seem to beat, other than when we returned to the PL last time and exacted some sweet revenge for the goading of their fans when we went down. We simply have to win, Brighton aren’t giving up the title race any time soon and Huddersfield look a real threat too. I would expect a win at home to Villa and my hometown club Bristol City who are on a death spiral at the moment. City are more than capable of getting a few goals they just can’t seem to defend a lead though so we’ll need our shooting boots on, likewise Villa tomorrow.

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  3. Eric, Agree on Diame mate, I’m still not convinced. I do think Ayoze plays better when Mitro plays though. If Gayle is fit I would start him and if winning well I would take him off for Mitro or Murphy even who I quite like.

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  4. I hate to say it but I prefer Diame to Perez. Perez disappears too often in games and seems to be easily put off when the defender plays him hard physically. The keys to our team are still the same though, Shelvey and Gayle in attack with Ritchie on the wing and getting a decent match out of whoever plays DM and the CB’s. Darlow is a good keeper and will keep getting better but I would like to see Elliot get some match time when he’s ready.

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  5. The Brighton, Huddersfield, and Reading matches should be very interesting. Those three could either allow us to pull away from everyone or drag us back into the top 6 pack. I would hope for 7 points from those three but it will be very tough.

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  6. Aye Kimtoon lass. I think people forget how good Elliot has been for us. He gives us dependable goaltending and is a good distributor of the ball. I hope he pushes Darlow to play better as well mate.

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  7. We need 6 pts from our next two games.
    Villa, despite some saying they would be “up there” are ****e. Team looks good on paper but they can’t defend for toffee.

    I prefer Perez when he’s on his game but we’re yet to see any consistency so I’d go for Diame.

    These favourable games seem to trip us up over the years so I’m predicting nothing

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  8. Eric Sykes:
    I think Elliot is better at kicking the puck than both Darlow and Krul.

    Elliott is the best keeper we have but Darlow has really impressed apart from his airkick

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  9. Ha! Good one Eric mate. πŸ˜† Yes we call it goaltending in hockey. But the idea is the same I guess. Keep the ball/puck out of the net. I think Elliot is a top class keeper and we may need him before this is over for the season. And I worry about depending so much on one small striker. I had hoped Mitro would do much better at this level, as well as Perez.

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  10. Perez’s record is 300 minutes per goal. Not good enough at the Champs level. Mitro is at 165 minutes played per goal. Better, but not good enough at this level. Rafa must have been expecting more. So were most of the supporters I would think. Will we keep both of them past summer? I have to say I haven’t a clue about that.

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  11. Why should Rafa swap Darlow for Elliot ?
    It aint necessary, and it aint gonna happen.
    Kodja is the big danger this evening, exactly the type of hard running skillful striker that has Lascelles wobbling.
    1-2 Villa.

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  12. I don’t see this match being the walk in the park so many others do.
    We haven’t really been playing great football all season, ugly win after ugly win.
    I worry about our defense . We need to get at them and score early, which should knock the stuffing out of them. Darlow is doing ok, I wouldn’t drop him for that mistake.
    It’s going to be a big test tonight, I hope the Lads are up for it.
    My gut feeling is a 1-1 draw unfortunately.

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  13. Could be right BB – we’ve not won any of the last 10 monday games! Villa are long overdue a result of some kind too and that bloody ref is card happy. We could lose Colback although I wouldn’t play him. I’d keep Perez in and drop Diame alongside Shelvey.
    However, play like we’ve done in the last four and with Gayle back we should win. HTL!

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  14. We never seem to do well against Villa when we really need to. And it’s a home game and a Monday night match so it all points to a loss or a draw, but really it should be a win against a fragile side. Golden chance to push on over next two games, can we take it?

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  15. Kim without Gayle’s goal’s I think we would be in the play off’s right now. I still want to see a 4 4 2 formation, been waiting a long time but wont hold my breath.

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  16. Bobby Robson did very well with the 4 4 2 formation and won some entertaining games. Not a big fan of 4 2 3 1 formation.

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  17. Georgio no we certainly don’t have the winger’s of Salano or Robert class. I agree but we are winning games ugly at the moment so why not at the very least give it a try. Used to love Robert free kicks as well mate. Be a long time we see a player of that class again.

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  18. Georgio I have never really known the club to have a excellent defence either unless Woodgate was in the team.

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  19. BB: I am OK with Darlow and think he has done really well after a shaky start. My comment on Elliot was giving G2 a hard time about calling him a goal tender which I am sure you know is a hockey term. If pushed, I would say I prefer Elliot but I would certainly not drop Darlow for one error.

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  20. We’re 4/6 to win tonight, the way Villa have been playing, I’d lump my house on it.

    Gayle back is a huge boost against a Villa side who seemingly don’t have a clue who their best players are.

    2-0

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  21. Game is on live in USA on BEin Sports if anybody is looking. Going for 3-1.

    Not sure about Gouffy either, I read something that he was leaving in the summer so why not give Atsu the chance to prove he is worth buying.

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  22. Looking at the pre-game pictures you really would think it is Sports Direct stadium. He didn’t really need to change the name and anger people because it is plastered all over the stands anyway.

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  23. Rafa is so conservative about changes. It’s Diame in there with Gayle up front. Much the same lineup as usual, even with Colback in. A bit frustrating for some of the other players I would think but it’s the way Rafa wants to play it. Good enough for me.

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  24. Commentator just gave some figures on Villa spending:

    Over 60 million in the summer

    23 million in January

    I think that is more than us (and much more I bet on a net spend basis). Not sure whatcash they brought in but it shows it is not always about how much you spend but whether you spend it wisely.

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  25. I think Rafa has been reading the Pardew Match Manual and is keeping it tight for the first 20 minutes and making sure we don’t concede against the 16th placed team!

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  26. Lee Ryder ‏@lee_ryder Β· 16m16 minutes ago

    ο†– More

    Gayle pointed to his hamstring as he came off #nufc

    0 replies . 0 retweets 0 likes

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    Like

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  27. Aye delusional mate. We usually get the job done. I’m concerned about Gayle though. How long did he last? 35 minutes or so?

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  28. I think we’re going to be extremely happy we had Goofy by the end of this year. He chips in with important goals. His experience at higher levels shows.

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  29. Yes, Goofy’s contract expires in June this year. I wonder if he might get an extension while we build a better squad for the Prem?

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  30. 2 points in 30 for Brucie. That is Carveresque, but Ugly John got a decimated squad and no money.

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  31. I think Bruce will fix Villa for the Championship but 1st:

    1.He has to avoid the sack

    2. He has to keep them up. They are only 6 points from the relegation places

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  32. Surely Villa will stay up Eric. Eventually I would like us to give them a good thumping in the Prem. πŸ˜€

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  33. Read somewhere on a blog that Gouffy has agreed to join Lille in the summer
    great value for 2 mill if you ask me

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