Crystal Palace come to town on Saturday and, if injuries don’t clear up, Steve Bruce may have to tinker again in a bid to find the right balance without several key players.
We already know that Lascelles (knee), Ritchie (ankle) and Saint-Maximin (hamstring) will be missing until the new year, however it’s not yet known if the game will come too soon for Almiron and Shelvey.
If it does, here’s the side we would like to see Steve Bruce go for on Saturday:
(4-4-1-1): Dubravka – Manquillo, Schar, Fernandez, Dummett – Atsu, S.Longstaff, Hayden, Willems – Joelinton – Carroll.
I’d be tempted to give Dwight Gayle a run out given this system would give him support up top, but it’s hard to justify his selection in the side over Carroll after his big miss at Burnley and lack of impact so far whenever he’s come on from the bench.
This system could also give Joelinton another chance to shine in a slightly deeper role, while playing Willems on the left-hand side would give us a player capable of whipping good balls into the box for Carroll and Joelinton.
Atsu and Sean Longstaff would need to be much better after dismal displays at Burnley, but Bruce has few others to choose from if Shelvey, Ki and Almiron miss out once again.
At the back, Dummett is capable of slotting in as a left-back in a four-man defence, although I suspect Bruce may prefer to stick with three centre-backs if Clark returns or Lejeune is deemed fit enough to start.
Then to right-back. Manquillo has been in brilliant form and was the best of a bad bunch at Burnley for me, but the busy festive schedule means Bruce could rotate and bring Yedlin back in – especially when pace could be needed up against Wilfred Zaha.