Another weekend, another trip to London awaits – and Steve Bruce is likely to make a few changes to the side that suffered a second half collapse at the Emirates last Sunday.
Gayle and Muto have been declared fit, Joelinton has a knock but ‘should be OK’, however Shelvey, Carroll, Clark, Atsu, Manquillo, Krafth, Dummett and Willems are out.
With fitness, form and injuries in mind, we think this could be something like the side that starts today:
Predicted NUFC XI – (5-2-2-1): Dubravka – Yedlin, Fernandez, Lascelles, Lejeune, Rose – Hayden, S Longstaff– Almiron, Saint-Maximin – Gayle.
4 changes from the side that started in 4-0 defeat at Arsenal?:
OUT – Clark, Lazaro, Bentaleb, Joelinton.
IN – Lejeune, Yedlin, Hayden, Gayle.
Dubravka will almost certainly continue in goal – although he’ll be hoping for a far quieter game than he had in North London last weekend!
At the back, it seems Clark is set for a pretty long spell on the sidelines, meaning Florian Lejeune looks likely to come in if Bruce sticks with a back five. Lascelles seems nailed on, meaning it’ll be a straight shoot out between Fernandez and Schar for that right-sided CB slot. If recent game time is anything to go by, Bruce will pick the Argentine over the Swiss star.
At right wing-back, Lazaro got the nod ahead of Yedlin at Arsenal, but didn’t do enough in the build up to two of Arsenal’s goals – leaving some to wonder if he’ll be able to handle Zaha here. It wouldn’t surprise me if he played higher up in this one, with Yedlin slotting in behind him at right-back.
Personally, I’d keep Lazaro in the side and aim to expose the fact Zaha rarely tracks back, with the Austrian looking dangerous going forward and capable on the ball during his eye-catching first-half display at the Emirates. Yes he may struggle to contain the Ivorian winger, but Yedlin has hardly contained him the last few times we’ve met!
That said, Bruce may look to protect Lazaro and opt for Yedlin – one of few players who can match Zaha for pace.
Down the other side, Rose looked a little unfit last weekend, so Bruce may be tempted to bring Matt Ritche back in – a player whose energy and intensity we missed last time out. That said, Rose needs game time to get back to his best, so I don’t see Bruce taking him out the side just 6 days after handing him his first start.
In midfield, I can Hayden coming back in to give us that extra bit of bite and presence in the middle. Bentaleb and S Longstaff were both too ponderous last time out, with the former looking like a player who’d only made a handful of starts since last April, sadly. As a result, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s on the bench for this one.
Out wide, it’s fair to say Almiron and Saint-Maximin are nailed on starters, but it’ll be interesting to see what Bruce does in attack given Gayle is finally fit again. The Daily Star’s Ian Murtagh claims he could be set to start, and I’d like to see the Brazilian play just off the former Palace poacher if he is to start.
Unfortunately, though, I don’t see Bruce changing his system to allow for that, and think Gayle’s return to fitness combined with Joelinton’s knock/struggle for goals could see the former make just his third start of the season against his former club.
How do you seeing us lining up today?