It is only our second game of the season but there are already some selection decisions to make for Rafa Benitez as we travel to newly promoted Cardiff City.
We offered a spirited splay in the 2-1 defeat to Spurs, but injuries coupled with new signings being a week further into training may mean a different line up to last Saturday.
If I had to guess, I’d say there’d be one or two changes maximum (Rondon to start and Yedlin not risked?), but here’s a few he may be considering ahead of our trip to Wales:
RB – Manquillo >> Yedlin
There was some great news this week as Yedlin returned to training after what was first feared to be a season ending ACL injury during the Tottenham game – but Benitez has confirmed today that the game will come too soon for him. Manquillo will almost certainly slot in at right-back as a result.
CB – Fernandez >> Clark
With Lejeune out, I think we will see new signing Federico Fernandez playing alongside Lascelles when fit. He wasn’t included last weekend as he hadn’t trained but his extra height may be needed against a big, physical & direct Cardiff team. Rafa has worked with him before at Napoli and the sooner he gets to speed with us the better so he might just come in to start this one. As a former Swansea captain too, I am sure he would love to get one over on their Welsh rivals on their own turf. Rafa’s confirmed he’ll be in the squad..
ST – Rondon >> Joselu
Our new number 9 looked good when he came on against Spurs and despite his goal, is a clear upgrade on Joeslu. This is already a vital game so we need our best XI on the pitch and that would include Rondon. Rafa wanted him earlier this summer so he could embed the Venezuelan into our side but needs must – I think Rafa will bring him into the side for this one. Muto has not played in England before so might be treated more cautiously, so expect another appearance form the bench from the Japanese forward.
CM – Ki >> Diame
This is an unlikely one as Diame has been key to our good form last season and was close to getting us a point as he hit the post last weekend. Diame offers a more physical presence than Ki but Rafa will want to reunite the Shelvey/Ki partnership from their Swansea days at some point. Maybe Ki might come to help us keep the ball if we have a lead to protect.
Bench – Murphy >> Atsu
Despite a superb assist, Ritchie was taken off for Atsu last weekend as Rafa searched for some fresh legs to get us back into the game. However much like last season, Atsu was pretty poor. He had no end product and in truth, didn’t look like providing us with anything. Murphy spoke this week about Rafa easing him into things and with him being a promising younger player, it might be worth giving him a shot from the bench instead?
What changes do you think the manager will make? What XI would you go with tomorrow?
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About Simon Riddlesden
Lifelong Newcastle United fan and East Stand season ticket holder. Observations from a supporter who has followed NUFC during Champions League participation and through relegation, taking me from Milan to Scunthorpe.