After two wins on the trot at St James’ Park, we could’ve probably done without an international break to disrupt our momentum, however we must be coming into this one the more confident side.
The first few months of the season were hard to watch and devoid of any real positives at times, however we look in better fettle than Burnley – a team who’ve failed to win in their last five, looking tired and not nearly as tough to beat at Turf Moor.
I still expect a tough and tight game, but I have a feeling we’ll be on the right side of a low scoring match in this one.
A lot may depend on two things. One being how we cope without Paul Dummett, with us lacking cover at left-back and it being easy to forget what a good job he does for us defensively, and the other factor being Salomon Rondon. His presence and ability to get the ball to stick in the final third was something we’d lacked all season in the win over Bournemouth.
Anything like a repeat performance and we could be in business here, with him giving us a platform to build on in attack, but if he doesn’t turn up I wonder how it could affect the likes of Perez, Kenedy and Ritchie – three players who thrived from his brilliant hold up play.
Our form may be picking up, but we’re still just a point above the drop zone as it stands, so it is vital we make the most of this generous run of fixtures between now and Christmas – especially when Burnley look very much like a possible relegation rival
As ever, here’s the team I’d like to see, followed by the side I expect Rafa to go with:
The chances of Rafa going with the above team/formation are unlikely, but it could make a lot of sense in Dummett’s absence.
Now, there’s every chance Lascelles won’t be fit in time for this one, however Ciaran Clark could fill in as one of the three centre-backs if the skipper doesn’t make it.
This formation is something Rafa has tried before and it seems suitable given A) Our lack of alternatives to fill in for Dummett at left-back and B) the fact we have plenty capable centre-backs and two players I believe would be ideal wing-backs in Kenedy and Yedlin.
Kenedy always played as a left wing-back during his time at Chelsea and this position could also suit Yedlin well, also allowing for the fact we have several quality centre-backs. If Lascelles wasn’t fit I’d be less inclined to do this, but Benitez has shown already this season that he isn’t afraid to play Clark.
Rafa is far more likely to make minimal changes and just put Clark in for Dummett at left-back, however he struggled badly last time he played hear in our early season cup defeat at Forest, so I really wouldn’t fancy him up against Aaron Lennon!
(4-4-1-1) – Dubravka – Yedlin, Schar, Fernandez, Clark – Ritchie, Ki, Diame, Kenedy – Perez – Rondon.
Paul Dummett has been ruled out with a hamstring injury, with Jonjo Shelvey, Jamaal Lascelels and Yoshinori Muto also doubts after failing to complete a full training session so far this week.
Florian Lejeune is back in training but it will be a few weeks before he returns after a 4-month layoff following a knee ligament injury.
For Sean Dyche, star centre-back James Tarkowski has been ruled out, while ex-Boro skipper Ben Gibson will also miss out.
I fancy us in this one. We’ve won two on the spin, while Burnley haven’t won in their last five – with them seeming far more fragile and beatable than they were last season.
That being said, we’ve generally struggled for goals this season and we may be weakened at the back, with Paul Dummett ruled out. For me, the game will depend on our ability to cope without him down that left-hand side and whether or not the real Salomon Rondon shows up.
If we cope without Dummett, Schar and Ki perform and Rondon turns up then I’m very confident we can come away with a solid win, but knowing how we tend to work it won’t be as easy as that!
Prediction: Burnley 0-1 Newcastle
Howay the lads!