After a brilliant all round display at Leicester last Friday, I can’t Rafa making many (if any!) changes today – and rightly so.
That said, their could be one or two surprises with fringe players and rarely-seen ‘new’ signings pushing for game time now our safety is all but secured.
This looks likely to be the side Benitez goes with against Southampton this afternoon, but have highlighted some of the potential changes below:
Predicted NUFC XI – (3-4-2-1)– Dubravka – Schar, Lascelles, Dummett – Manquillo, Hayden, Shelvey, Ritchie – Perez, Almiron – Rondon:
There’ll be calls for Yedlin and Shelvey to return, with both helping us get on the front foot at home, but do Manquillo and Ki really deserve dropping? I don’t think so.
Diame must start TWO of our last four remaining games if he’s to trigger a new one-year contract extension, so Benitez has a big decision to make today, with another substitute roll for the Senegalese midfielder doing little for his hopes of a new deal.
Then to the potential surprises in the starting 11 today. I’m not expecting any of the following to start, but the likes of Muto, Atsu and Kenedy will all be hoping for game time in the final few weeks now our safety is practically secured.
Kenedy has left it too late if he still plans to salvage what’s left of his loan spell at St James’ Park, but the likes of Muto and Atsu are squad players who’ll be hoping to get a proper chance to impress Benitez over the coming weeks.
We know what Atsu can do, so his case for first-team minutes isn’t as strong, however Yoshinori Muto is a player who’s looked sharp in patches but has never really had a chance to shine when only brought on by Benitez in the closing stages of games.
Federico Fernandez is also one to watch, having been unlucky to miss out after some brilliant early season form, however it’s hard to see Rafa changing the three-man defence of Schar, Lascelles and Dummett that did so well to keep Leicester out last Friday.