After a wretched run of results in the league and some pretty uninspiring home performances, this game could be a big chance for us to regain some much needed confidence at St James’ Park as much as anything.
The squad is looking thin, so expect to see a made up of fringe men, youngsters and one or two who need game time after coming back from injury – with potential starts for top youngster Sean Longstaff and star centre-back Florian Lejeune the two to watch for me.
Despite our generally awful form in the cups, we have won our last two FA Cup games at St James’ Park, beating Luton 3-1 this time last year and Birmingham by the same scoreline in January 2017.
It will be anything but a walk in the park, mind – not that I have to tell this to any Newcastle fan who’s been to home games recently. Blackburn may be a newly promoted Championship side, but they have some decent players – with star man Bradley Dack one to watch and ex-Mag Adam Armstrong no doubt returning with a real point to prove.
With injuries and rotation in mind, here’s the side I see Rafa starting for this one:
Starting at the back, Woodman seems nailed on for this one. Dubravka will get a rare rest, Darlow is injured and Elliot is up for sale – so this will be the perfect chance for the England U-21 international to impress and potentially help himself secure a much needed loan move away.
At full-back, Yedlin took a bad knock against Man Utd in midweek so I doubt he’ll be risked, so U-23 regular Jamie Sterry could well come in at right-back. On the other side, we don’t exactly have natural Paul Dummett cover, so Javier Manquillo looks likely to fill in once again here.
In the middle of defence I can see Lascelles and Schar being rested, with Rafa also confirming that Fernandez won’t be risked. With Clark back from injury (has trained over the past few days) I can see him starting, whilst this also seems to be the perfect comeback game for a certain Florian Lejeune.
In the middle of the park we’re hardly blessed with options. Ki is at the Asian Cup and Diame won’t play after sustaining a hip injury on Wednesday night, leaving Hayden and Shelvey – with the latter in need of game time to regain some match fitness. Ahead of those two (or in a midfield two) will then almost certainly be Sean Longstaff – the top U-23 talent who’s been waiting for his big first-team chance ever since impressing over pre-season.
Out wide I’d expect Murphy to get a rare chance to impress Rafa at St James’ Park, with it also being an opportunity for Kenedy to put in a much needed confidence-boosting performance – allowing Ritchie and Atsu to be rested.
Up top it’s almost certainly going to be Joselu. Rondon will be rested for next Saturday’s trip to Chelsea, Muto is now away on international duty with Japan and Sorensen won’t be getting his big chance just yet, with him playing (and scoring) in the U-23’s win at Sunderland earlier today.
Predicted NUFC team – (4-2-3-1) Woodman – Sterry, Lejeune, Clark, Manquillo – Hayden, Shelvey – Murphy, Longstaff, Kenedy – Joselu.
Here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in this Blackburn side:
Bradley Dack – Their start man over the past two seasons, with 12 goals and 7 assists so far this season and 18 goals and 11 assists last season seeing him linked with a potential Premier League move. Here’s his emphatic finish in their impressive win over West Brom just a few day ago:
Adam Armstrong – Finally let go permanently over the summer after countless loan moves away. He’s got bags of pace and was once described as one of the best finishers at Newcastle by Alan Pardew. He’s be out to impress back in his hometown..
Charlie Mulgrew – A centre-back with an impressive left-foot and incredible knack of scoring, with 22 goals in 18 months for Blackburn. He actually scored a free-kick agains us in Blackburn’s 1-0 win over us during our promotion season two years ago.
I can’t say I’m convinced we’ll win this one – a common theme when it comes to home games after 8 defeats and 1 draw in 11 outings at St James’ Park this season.
I know we’re against a side 15th in the Championship, but they’ll fancy themselves in this one – especially when Rafa will be forced to field a squad made up of fringe players and the odd youngster.
I expect to see a few goals and hope to see a positive performance, but I fancy them to force a replay – a result that would not suit Rafa one bit.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-2 Blackburn
Howay the lads!