With Rafa’s pre-match presser out the way and the big game with Arsenal now fast approaching, it’s becoming more clear what team we can expect to see start at St James’ Park tomorrow.
Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Ritchie have been passed fit and all the players who’ve been away on international duty have come back unscathed – however Rondon and Yedlin’s late return from America (and the long haul flights that come with it) has given Benitez a big decision to make.
With all the above and the form of certain players in mind, here’s the side I expect to see start against Arsenal tomorrow:
(4-2-3-1): Dubravka – Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Dummett – Diame, Shelvey – Ritchie, Perez, Kenedy – Joselu.
Clark, Ki, Rondon – OUT
Shelvey, Ritchie, Joselu – IN
Don’t get me wrong, I really do want to see Rondon start, but I can see Benitez going with Joselu. Why? The Venezuelan only returned from international duty yesterday (after playing in the early hours of Wednesday morning out in Miami) and has only trained once since he got back.
The same applies to Yedlin, but Rondon is someone who is still working on his fitness after a total lack of preseason, with his replacement (Joselu) seeming like a far more viable option to come in than Manquillo (Yedlin’s potential replacement).
If Rondon seems fully fit and isn’t showing any real signs of fatigue then Rafa may well go with him (and I hope he does), but I get the feeling he’ll start Joselu – who is confident and in decent form with two goals in our opening four games.
I see us reverting back to a slightly less defensive 4-2-3-1, meaning it’ll be one of Clark, Schar, Fernandez that partners Lascelles – and I expect it to be Fernandez who gets the nod.
He’s been quietly impressive in his three appearances so far, he’s a player Rafa knows well and is someone I expect to be Rafa’s preferred partner for Lascelles while Lejeune is out.
Ritchie and Shelvey’s returns are inevitable now they’re fully fit, with Ki almost certain to drop out as a result.
Do you think this will be the team that starts tomorrow?
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