With Rafa confirming Lascelles and Dummett will be missing once again, the defence is likely to be unchanged, seeing Lejeune and Clark flanked by Yedlin and Manquillo. Hopefully we’ll have learnt our lessons that saw us carved open a little too easily at Old Trafford. Yes the opposition was as devastating as we’ve seen so far this season, but we’ll have to find the right balance of attack and defence this time out.
Ahead of that them, Jonjo Shelvey looks set to be reunited with the Mikel Merino in the middle of midfield. Despite the defeat, I thought Shelvey put in a mature and measured display at Man Utd, however Merino’s return is an even bigger plus point. The Spaniard has been elegant but energetic, physical but poised and his quality and composure has been sorely missed over the last three games. His return from a back injury is a huge boost.
Hopefully we see a slightly more influential Matt Ritchie. He’s normally the man who sets the tone for our performances, but has been very quiet ever since his all action first half against Bournemouth.
On the other side, we’re likely to see Jacob Murphy given consecutive starts for the first time since completing his big money move from Norwich over the summer. He’s had a slow start to life on Tyneside, but his performance at Old Trafford was by far his most promising yet. Hopefully he takes confidence from that and can kick on in front of a hopeful home crowd tomorrow. I can’t stress the importance of being patient with him however – any jibes from the crowd if he makes an early error or misplaced are not needed. Let’s get behind him.
Up top, Dwight Gayle must keep his place. He’ll have taken confidence from his first goal of the season last weekend and is without doubt our most natural goalscorer.
The above may seem an obvious thing to say, but I’m unsure if Rafa will stick with two up top – meaning Gayle’s place in the side could be at threat given the gaffer tends to opt for a big man when playing just one up front.
Gayle played just off Joselu in our last home game in the defeat to Bournemouth. It worked well in the first half as far as our attacking threat was concerned, but Gayle’s tactical awareness and defensive positioning doesn’t seem to be as affective as Perez’s – meaning we looked far more open as a result. Watford like to play on the counter, so Rafa might be reluctant to play two up top again? Perez to perhaps return in an attempt to combat this?
With this in mind, we may just see Joselu dropped for this one? If not, Gayle may have to be a bit more conscious of his defensive positioning in the role just behind Joselu.
Once again, I’d prefer to see Mitrovic partner Gayle if we did go for that big man, little man partnership, but once again that looks so unlikely to happen. I think it’s time to accept Mitrovic doesn’t have a future at the club under Rafa Benitez if the gaffer is playing a misfiring, former fourth choice Stoke striker ahead of him every week.
For the visitors, two players have really impressed me whenever I’ve watched them this season – Richarlison and Doucoure.
Richarlison is direct, skillfull and has an eye for goal. We’ll have to keep a close eye on him, however Yedlin could be the man for the job.
Doucoure is a really underated player. Like Merino he’s comfortable both on and off the ball and is the main driving force of this revitalised Watford side. ‘Stop him and you stop Watford’ I’m told.
Goalkeeper Gomes always has a world class save in his locker, however the three centre-backs in front of him lack any height or presence, with two of the three set to start tomorrow being under 6ft. Balls into the box and some physicality up top could be the order of the day?
For an inside look into the opposition, see this week’s edition of ‘The Opposition Opinion’ where we’ve gained the thoughts of a Watford fan we’ve been speaking to this week.
Newcastle – 11th (14 pts) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 1 / Drawn: 1 / Lost: 3
Watford – 8th –(18 pts) – Last 5 in the league / Won: 2 / Drawn: 0 / Lost: 3
Isaac Hayden is suspended for this one after picking up his 5th yellow of the season at Old Trafford, however Benitez has confirmed that Mikel Merino is available once again.
Jamaal Lascelles (ankle) and Christian Atsu (thigh) and Paul Dummett (hamstring) look set to miss out once again.
Waford captain Troy Deeney is out, serving the final game of a three-match suspension.
Craig Cathcart (knee) and Younes Kaboul (hamstring) will be missing once again, whilst midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah (knee) and forward Isaac Success (knee) are still oit injured.
Full-back Kiko Femenia has been declared fit to play after being forced off with cramp against West Ham on Sunday.
Newcastle United XI – (4-4-1-1) – Elliot – Yedlin, Lejeune, Clark, Manquillo – Ritchie, Merino, Shelvey, Murphy – Gayle – Joselu
Watford XI – (3-4-2-1) Gomes – Marriapa, Britos, Kabasele – Femenia, Cleverly, Doucoure, Holebas – Hughes, Richarlison – Gray
Recent results haven’t tended to go our way, but it’s worth mentioning we’ve lost just one of our last 12 home league games against Watford (W8 D3).
This won’t be easy. I think the Watford defence can be got at, but they’re dangerous going forward and have pace and goals in them on the counter.
It’s a game we’ll obviously be looking to win, but any gung-ho approach would see us play right into their hands given their potency on the counter.
An early start could be key, but we’ll have to manage this game much better than we have done in previous weeks.
I fancy a few foals in this one. It’s a big game, but we’ll need a big performance to get all three points. I’m more hopeful now Merino is back, but I have been impressed by Watford.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-2 Watford
Howay the lads!