Sunday’s game against Man Utd is a big one. Not only is it a game against a side who’ve featured in so many special games at St James’ Park over the years, but it’s a fixture that we could really do with getting a big result from – especially when fellow strugglers at the bottom have ‘winnable’ games this weekend.
After two 1-1 draws over the past week, including a fortunate one at Palace last Sunday, here’s the THREE changes I think Rafa will make this weekend and the NUFC XI that could line up against Man Utd:
NUFC (4-2-3-1): Dubravka – Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett – Merino, Diame – Ritchie, Perez, Kenedy – Slimani
Slimani to make his debut, with Perez in the 10 role to support him in attack. It will be interesting to see how that works as Perez used to thrive when playing alongside Aleksandar Mitrovic a few seasons ago.
Ritchie and Kenedy out wide, who could be key in our attempts to play to Slimani’s strengths. Both could be tasked with getting down the line and whipping balls into the box.
Merino and Diame in midfield, with the pair controlling our last home game against Burnley. Shelvey’s quality is sometimes needed in big games like these (see assists for Joselu in 1-1 draw with Liverpool), however his work off the ball is questionable (see 2nd half vs Palace).
In defence, Clark may actually miss out, but providing he’s fit I can’t see anything other than that back four. If not, we could see the return of Lejeune, however Chancel Mbemba could play given Man Utd’s pace in forward areas and Lejeune’s lack of football recently.
The in goal, I think Dubravka might just start. Rafa praised his character and ball playing skills this week, and both could put him in good stead to make a positive impression on Sunday. Darlow did little to convince Rafa he’s the man for the big occasion in his shaky second half display at Selhurst park..