We welcome Stoke to St. James’ Park on Saturday hoping to make it three wins on the bounce after back to back wins over West Ham and Swansea.
Few deserve to lose their place in the side after Sunday’s superb win at Swansea, but Stoke at St. James’ will offer a totally different test.
Here’s the XI we’d like to see Rafa go with on Saturday:
Florian Lejeune is back from his spell on the sidelines but Lascelles and Clark look almost certain to retain their place at the heart of our defence. Sunday’s 1-0 win at Swansea meant the pair have helped us to back to back clean sheets, seeing Rob Elliot concede just one goal in our last three outings.
At full-back Mbemba looks likely to miss out once again and, with Dummett injured, Jesus Gamez deserves to retain his spot at left-back. Swansea lacked width last weekend and he was rarely ran at, so Stoke’s dangerous winger Xherdan Shaqiri will pose a very different test this time around, however his assured display last Sunday should earn him another chance in the side.
Javier Manquillo has done a decent job at right-back, however I’d be inclined to go with the fit-again DeAndre Yedlin on Saturday. His pace, athleticism and rapport with Matt Ritchie down the right would be a welcome return to the team – especially at home in a game we’ll hope to be on the front foot in. It’s also worth mentioning that his electric pace will much needed against Stoke’s new left-winger Jese, who’s no slouch himself.
Mikel Merino and Isaac Hayden were superb in our last game at St. James’, winning the midfield battle in our 3-0 win over West Ham, however i’d be tempted to play bring Jonjo Shelvey back into the equation. Playing him alongside the combative and classy Merino would form a potentially mouthwatering midfield duo and i’d be interested to see how they’d play together. Perez is a player I feel needs to offer a lot more but, given our limited options in the no.10 role, I’d play him off the front once again.
In attack Christian Atsu deserves to return to the side following his surprise omission at Swansea, with Jacob Murphy to make way after struggling to make a real impact on his first league start last Sunday. The industrious Matt Ritchie’s is one of the first names on the team sheet, whilst new boy Joselu is the man i’d start up top. He’s lead the line very well in his previous two starts and offered a real goal threat, not forgetting he’ll be well up for it against former club Stoke – a team who rarely gave him a chance to shine in the top flight.
Let us know your thoughts. Do you like the look of this team, or do you have other ideas in mind?