Premier League football is finally back after a weekend of FA Cup action, and next up is a tough trip to Wolves.
While several key men have been ruled out once again (Schar, Maquillo, Saint-Maximin, Shelvey and Lascelles), we’ve seen plenty first-team players return to training this week, with Bruce confirming that Almiron, Ritchie, Carroll, Willems, Dummett, Clark and Gayle all passed fit to play.
With fitness and form in mind, here’s the side we’re backing to start at Molineux come 3pm:
Preferred NUFC XI – (5-2-1-2) Dubravka – Krafth, Fernandez, Clark, Dummett, Willems – Hayden, S.Longstaff – Almiron – Joelinton, Carroll.
OUT – Muto, Shelvey, Schar and Manquillo.
IN – Carroll, S.Longstaff, Clark and Krafth
With several first-team players now back in contention, Steve Bruce has a slightly more healthy squad to pick from going into this one.
At the back there’s still a few issues, but it’s not all bad news. Schar, Manquillo and Lascelles are all out and Yedlin is a doubt, but with Clark, Dummett and Ritchie all back, we have plenty solid options at the back.
At centre-back, a back three of Fernandez, Clark and Dummett seems likely and best suited to deal with Wolves’ pace in attack. Lejeune is a class act and will recover, but his recent horror show vs Leicester and tired displays over the festive period mean Bruce could take him out of the firing line and protect him.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Bruce played Ritchie at right wing-back, however Emil Krafth could well come in. After all, I’m not sure why we signed him if he can’t get a game even when Manquillo and Yedlin are out injured!
Willems looks likely to come back in at left wing-back, while Hayden and Sean Longstaff seem nailed on to start in midfield with Shelvey set to miss out again with a hamstring injury.
In attack, Atsu’s lively display at Rochdale could earn him a start – especially if Bruce decides to take Joelinton out of the firing line.
That said, I can see a fit again Andy Carroll leading the line alongside Joelinton, with Miguel Almiron in the no.10 role just behind them.
How do you see us lining up today?