With several injuries, Ki and Muto away at the Asian Cup and the small matter of Cardiff at home to contend with on Saturday, I can see Rafa making up to NINE changes for tonight’s FA Cup replay at Ewood Park.
Benitez admitted just a few days ago that the Premier League has to be our priority in our current predicament, but with Darlow, Dummett, Diame, Shelvey, Ki, Muto unavailable, he hasn’t exactly got much choice.
Here’s the team I think we could start at Blackburn tonight:
(4-2-3-1): Woodman – Sterry, Schar, Fernandez, Manquillo – Hayden, Longstaff – Murphy, Roberts, Kenedy – Joselu
The only two I’m unsure on in this team is Kenedy and Roberts. The Brazilian was said to be carrying a minor injury (so we don’t know if he’ll make it) and U-23 star is definitely in the squad, but it’s not yet known if he’ll start.
It’d be be a big help if Longstaff and Hayden could be rested – with both being needed for Saturday if neither Diame or Shelvey shake off injuries in time – but the fact of the matter is they’re the only two central midfielders we have for tonight. If Rafa opts to rest one for Cardiff, don’t be surprised to see Schar play in a holding midfield role.
At the back, Fernandez and Schar didn’t come off the bench in Saturday’s defeat at Chelsea, so I expect both to start, while Manquillo and Sterry look nailed on in the full back positions.
Jacob Murphy will almost certainly get another chance to prove himself out wide, but both he and Joselu will need to be MUCH better if we want to knock Blackburn out tonight.