The FA Cup 4th round. It’s sad to say, but it’s not often we get this far – another line that sums up the Mike Ashley era..
It feels like our struggling league season has meant we’re unable to take the FA Cup quite as seriously as we’d like to yet again this year, but we can’t underestimate the momentum and confidence it could give us.
Last week’s replay at Ewood Park went the distance and could’ve been seen as a costly day – being a tiring night where several players picked up injuries or knocks – however we pulled through, winning 4-2 that night and following that up with a monumental 3-0 win over Cardiff a few days later.
Time will tell, but I believe the best way to approach this one would be to star a FEW of our key players and aim to win. At least then we may just have a spring in our step ahead of what promises to be one of our toughest games of the season at home to Man City next Tuesday.
With injuries and rotation in mind, here’s the side I see Rafa starting for this one:
It looks like Darlow won’t be leaving this month and is back in training after several weeks out, but I expect Woodman to get another shot in goal.
At full-back the likes of Manquillo and Sterry will be hoping to get more game time, but Rafa could field a slightly stronger side given we’re up against Premier League opposition with a superior squad to us. I think Yedlin and Manquillo may start.
Fernandez missed Cardiff through illness but has returned to training this week, so I expect him to start. Lejeune may be given another run out, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Clark start alongside the Argentine, with Lascelles, Lejeune and Schar having all played the full 90 last weekend.
In the middle of the park we’re hardly spoilt for choice right now. Shelvey and Diame are ‘better’ according to Benitez but neither will be risked, so I can’t see beyond a Hayden and Longstaff pairing once again.
Like Fernandez, Kenedy missed Cardiff due to ‘illness’ so I’m quite sure he’ll start this one. There’s talk of Murphy going out on loan so it’s hard to know if he’ll be included. Another chance for Callum Roberts would’ve been nice, but I think Rafa will go for a stronger side in this one – meaning the likes of Perez, Ritchie and Atsu may start.
Rondon could well be rested after yet another tireless and invaluable all round display in the 3-0 win over Cardiff. With that in mind, Muto away at the Asian Cup and Sorensen now on loan at Blackpool, I’d put money on Joselu starting up top.
Here’s a few thoughts from Watford fan @HornetShane:
“I’m not as confident as I was for the game at the Vic. You lot did a job on us and it’ll be another tough afternoon. Its not the draw we necessarily wanted and that’s been reflected in the ticket revenue (we’re bringing 600 fans despite having a 6,000 allocation!).
“I personally want us to go on a cup run and I hope Javi does take it seriously. Reckon we’ll make 4 or so changes as some of the bench players and a couple of reserves may well get a chance centre stage.
“Ultimately, this is a completely different mindset form our 3rd round tie vs Woking- we had time, space to move the ball and Woking never really troubled us- bigger, more familiar test vs Newcastle
“Adalberto Peneranda made his debut vs Woking and may well come in again, definitely a danger man. Also, Ben Wilmot and Domingos Quina are two youngsters that may get game time and are two highly rated players as well. Elsewhere, think it’ll be a interesting game for Janmaat if he starts as he’s been very outspoken about his old club.”
“It’s a game I think we can win and ultimately it can’t be worse than the game earlier in the season (surely not!!). I think we’ll nick it 2-1..but wouldn’t surprise me if it went to a replay.”
Kenedy and Fernandez are back after overcoming illness. Shelvey, Diame and Dummett are ‘progressing’ but won’t be risked for this one says Rafa – with Ki expected to be out for a week or two with a hamstring injury.
Fortunately for us, Watford’s star man Abdoulaye Doucoure has been ruled out. Right-back Kiko Femenia is also injured, meaning ex-Mag Daryl Janmaat could be set to start on his return to St James’.
It’s hard to predict based on the total unpredictability of both line-ups, with us not knowing whether ourselves or Watford will field our strongest sides.
That said, they have a stronger squad and superior senior options in reserve – so I’m not too confident if it’s our fringe men and kids against a pretty full strength Watford side. After all, they are 7th in the league.
It’d be potentially the most frustrating result for Rafa, but I can see this one ending in a draw. I think we’ll take it seriously and give it a proper go, but I can see this going to an unwanted replay at Vicarage Road.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-2 Watford
Howay the lads!