Today’s the day – our first chance to make it into the 5th Round of the FA Cup since 2006!
Bruce has vowed to play a strong side, so with injuries, fitness and form in mind, here’s the 11 I can see him going with come 3pm today:
(5-2-3): Dubravka – Hayden, Schar, Lascelles, Clark, Ritchie – Shelvey, M Longstaff – Almiron, Joelinton, Saint-Maximin.
IN – Schar, Shelvey, Saint-Maximin?
OUT – Fernandez, S Longstaff, Atsu?
Bruce is clearly taking the cup seriously and rightly so, vowing to name a strong side against the team that beat Rafa Benitez’s NUFC 3-0 in the FA Cup back in 2016.
Lejeune is out with a groin injury, but it would be no surprise to see Schar make his first start in a few weeks here, meaning one of Fernandez, Lascelles or Clark could drop out. The Swiss international has real quality on the ball, making him an attacking asset we must make the most of against lesser opposition.
At wing-back, Ritchie looks likely to start again (Bruce has little choice now Willems is out), while Hayden seems likely to play down our right-hand side once again, with Yedlin, Manquillo and Krafth injured and Lazaro not eligible to play until next weekend.
In midfield, Shelvey will almost certainly return after being rested at Everton and could be partnered by one of the Longstaff’s. Bentaleb has been declared fit to play, but he seems likely to make a late cameo from the bench, with him only signing on Tuesday having not played a senior game for Schalke since last April!
In attack, Saint-Maximin and Almiron look set to start either side of Joelinton – with the latter our only fit striker now Carroll, Gayle and Muto are still injured. Atsu has started all our FA Cup games so far but seems likely to be dropped after his anonymous display at Everton.
What team do you see Bruce going with today?