After recently admitting that he could recall some players “playing for their futures” in our remaining few games, I’ve got a feeling both Mikel Merino and Chancel Mbemba could feature against West Brom on Saturday – as well as Jacob Murphy for different reasons.
With safety practically secured and just four games to go until our 2017/18 Premier League season draws to a close, Benitez is aware that certain players will be out to prove their worth ahead of what looks set to be another massive summer at St James’ Park.
This comment made today also suggests to me that Rafa’s ready to give certain fringe players their big chance to impress:
“It’s difficult for them because the team won a few games in a row recently.
“I have repeated the team, but now maybe I will make some changes and give some players the opportunity to impress in the last few games.
Both Mikel Merino and Chancel Mbemba are undoubted talents, however they are two players Benitez has been reluctant to start since the turn of the year.
Mbemba hasn’t played a single Premier Legaue minute in 2018, whilst Merino has started just two games in that time. Seeing the Spaniard return to the fold may also help dampen those rumours suggesting he’s all set to secure a move to Athletic Bilbao this summer.
As far as Jacob Murphy is concerned, he’s not one ‘playing for his future’, but he’s really struggled for game time recently – especially when you consider he was our most expensive signing last summer. He also very nearly got us a point late on against Everton, so seeing him come in for Matt Ritchie wouldn’t surprise me.
On top of all the above, I’m hoping (and expecting) to see Slimani start once again – a player who’ll be playing for his future more than anyone in black and white over the final few weeks of the season.
Ciaran Clark, Javier Manquillo and Joselu are another group of players who’ve played very little recently, but I reckon Mbemba, Merino and Murphy are three to watch for this weekend’s visit of West Brom.