No need to make any changes at the back for this one, but there’s a few areas ahead of that which may need addressing after Monday’s performance.
Merino is out, but Isaac Hayden has recovered from a ‘slight knock’ that made him start from the bench against Burnley.
With that in mind, I fully expect him to come in for Diame in midfield and partner Jonjo Shelvey – one of the few players who came out of the defeat at Turf Moor having earned some praise.
Diame has been doing well in training according to Rafa and did give us something different in a short cameo against Palace in our last home match, but his performance from the start against Burnley did little to suggest he’ll keep Hayden out once again now the latter is fully fit.
With a real lack of alternatives waiting in the wings behind Ritchie, Perez and Atsu, that trio will no doubt start once again tomorrow – however I’ll be hoping for more offensive contributions from Perez and Ritchie in particular, with the latter having a quiet last few games by his standards.
Up top, I honestly think it’s Mitrovic’s turn to be given a chance. I highly doubt Rafa feels the same way however, and that’s what counts at the end of the day.
In his defence, our home form may be good with Joselu in the side – winning three and drawing one of the four he’s started – but he’s offered so little in the last three and looks pretty shot for confidence.
I’d also argue that it doesn’t send out the best message to the players if under performing players are selected week in week out? Yes it’s about the result not the performance for Rafa and the ability for a player to fit into his intricate system, but I believe Mitrovic deserves his chance now.
He’s been in great form for Serbia, started the season off with a few goals for us and surely deserves a chance to prove he actually has learnt his lesson and can be trusted by Benitez.
It’s a risk I don’t see Rafa taking unfortunately, but he’s served his time on the sidelines and Joselu probably needs rotating.
I’m forgetting Gayle in all of this, but that sums up the sort of season he’s had. He’s barely played so it’s hard to make too much of a comment, but he looks out of sorts – so much so that I feel like he barely breaks into sprint even during his 10 minute cameos?!
I watched Bournemouth’s last away game on Match of the Day a few weeks ago and Junior Stanislas looked like one of their main threats. The winger, fortunately for us, is out of this one with an injury however!
Their top scorer from last season Joshua King is also facing a race against time to make tomorrow’s game. Hopefully he misses out too, being the sort of pacey goal-threat I’d rather we didn’t have to deal with tomorrow!
Callum Wilson is back from injury and has looked sharp by all accounts. He’ll be one to watch, as might Jermaine Defoe be if King doesn’t make it- a player whose done very little so far since returning to Bournemouth, but a deadly finisher who couldn’t be given a sniff.
In midfield, England U-20 captain Lewis Cook has been catching the eye and Harry Arter is a work-horse in the middle, whilst club-record signing Nathan Ake is a very decent defender who will be an asset for them at the back.
For an inside look into tomorrow’s opposition, see this week’s edition of ‘The Opposition Opinion’ where we’ve gained the thoughts of Bournemouth fan John ahead of the game.
Newcastle – 9th (14 pts) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 1 / Drawn: 2 / Lost: 2
Bournemouth – 19th –7pts) – Last 5 in the league / Won: 1 / Drawn: 1 / Lost: 3
Mikel Merino is OUT with a back injury and looks set to miss 2-3 weeks.
Benitez has confirmed that Isaac Hayden is now fully fit, also revealing that Paul Dummett is back in training, but tomorrow’s game will come too soon for him.
Bournemouth will be without Benik Afobe (thigh) and Junior Stanislas (groin) after both were forced off in the defeat to Chelsea last weekend, whilst Joshua King faces a late fitness test
Howe is boosted by the potential return of Callum Wilson however, who could make his first league start in more than a year following a serious knee injury.
Newcastle United XI – (4-2-3-1) – Elliot – Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Clark – Hayden, Shelvey – Ritchie, Perez , Atsu – Joselu
Bournemouth XI – (3-5-2) – Begovic – Cook, Ake, Francis – Smith, Surman, Cook, Arter, Daniels – Wilson, King.
Hopefully we don’t see a repeat of the last time Bournemouth travelled to SJP last March – a 1-3 defeat and dismal display that proved to be Steve McClaren’s last game in charge of NUFC.
I somehow think we won’t see this Newcastle team collapse like we did that day however!
Providing we don’t take Bournemouth too lightly, we have every chance of another win here, with the visitors struggling so far this season.
They’ve scored just 6 goals in 10 games so far this season, which doesn’t bode well for them given we have the joint fourth best defense in the league, but I’m expecting reaction from both teams in this one.
They like to pass the ball and, like us, tend to be pretty high energy, so it’ll be an interesting mix of styles.
If we can get into them from the off and shatter any confidence they’ve been trying to build in recent weeks then I think we’ll see them off, but I’ve got a feeling they’ll be better than many fans heading to St James’ tomorrow are expecting.
Heart says 2-1 to us, head says it’ll be a score draw.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-1 Bournemouth
Howay the lads!