TEAM NEWS: Benitez offers update on Lascelles, Atsu, Dummett & Merino’s availability for West Brom trip

Rafa Benitez has confirmed that Jamaal Lascelles, Christian Atsu and Paul Dummett will all miss out once again for our crucial trip to West Brom, however midfield duo Mikel Merino and Isaac Hayden could be set to return to the starting 11.

Starting with Lascelles, the skippers presence and focus has been sorely missed in recent weeks and it is a real shame he won’t make it in time for our crucial game with the fellow relegation battling Baggies.

He’s missed our last two games with an ankle knock and we’ve conceded SEVEN goals in his absence. You get the feeling we wouldn’t have crumbled like we did if he’d have been at the heart of our defence?

Atsu will also miss out, meaning Jacob Murphy is likely to be given another shot in the side. Murphy was perhaps the only player who can come out of Saturday’s game with any credit, but we are missing Atsu’s pace and endless energy on the counter.

Then comes Dummett. He’s not played since the opening day, however his return would’ve been timely in this one to help steady the ship. He’s our only left-footed left-back option and is a better defender than Manquillo – a right-back filling in at left-back.

Here’s what Rafa had to say in his pre-match press conference, confirming that the above trio will miss our meeting with Gary Megson’s West Brom:

“Merino is obviously available now.

“Lascelles, Atsu and Dummett will not be ready.”

On the plus side, the potential return of Merino and Hayden to the midfield should help us look much more solid and combative.

The pair are also over 6ft tall – something which may come in very handy against a big and strong West Brom side who are very dangerous from set pieces.

Hopefully Merino is ready to start after coming on from the bench on Saturday, whilst Hayden could well return to the side after serving his one-match suspension against Watford.

With all of the above in mind, what team would you like to see start at West Brom? A few changes can be expected after Saturday’s horror show at St James’!

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About Olly Hawkins

Olly has been a Junior Magpie from birth. As a season ticket holder and avid Newcastle United fan - he eats, sleeps and breathes all things NUFC.

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