If Steve Bruce’s pre-match presser was anything to go by, I fully expect him to ring the changes for Wednesday night’s trip to Bournemouth.
Not only did he sound reluctant to risk Matt Ritchie, who’s deemed ‘tough and go’ to make it, or Allan Saint-Maximin – who he said was “extremely tired” just yesterday – he also stressed the need to protect certain players from playing four games in just 11 days.
With fitness, form and his latest comments in mind, here’s SEVEN changes I expect to see him make ahead of our trip to the South Coast:
1. Dubravka IN, Darlow OUT?
Bruce was slated by some on social media for starting Darlow over Dubravka on Sunday, yet the former Forest stopper was probably the only Newcastle player who played well on the night.
That being said, Dubravka will almost certainly be recalled for this one. His error cost us against Villa, but he’s won us far more points than he’s lost us on the whole this season!
2. Yedlin IN, Manquillo OUT?
Not only has the solid Spaniard has started all three games we’ve played since the restart, he’s played every single minute.
Bruce said in his presser that it’s a bit much to expect players to play 4 times in 11 days, so I fully expect Yedlin to get a rare start. He’s less reliable defensively, but his pace could be an asset against a weary Bournemouth side.
3. Bentaleb IN, Hayden OUT?
The Algerian has had to settle for late sub appearances since we returned from the break, but I think he’ll get a start here.
Not only does he need to show what he can do if he wants to win a permanent deal, I don’t see Hayden playing twice in 4 days when he only just passed a late fitness test to start our cup quarter final vs Man City.
4. Shelvey IN, S Longstaff OUT?
Jonjo was fit enough to make the bench on Sunday but didn’t feature, so he’ll be well rested for this one.
On the flip side, Sean Longstaff looked leggy at the weekend and struggled badly, both on and off the ball. He won’t play twice in a few days after such a long break from competitive action, so Shelvey seems nailed on providing he’s fully recovered rom the knock that limited him to the bench vs City.
5. Lazaro IN, Schar OUT?
A random swap on the face of it, but this factors in Bruce swapping a centre-back for an attacking midfielder so we can ditch that 5-man defence and move back to a 4-2-3-1.
Schar will be dropped after his horror show on Sunday, which saw him give away a needless penalty and look pretty uninterested throughout, and, with Saint-Maxmin suffering from fatigue and Ritchie an early doubt, this seems like Bruce’s perfect chance to take another good luck at Lazaro.
The Inter Milan loanee showed his quality in his last start out wide in the 3-2 win at West Brom and will need to be given a chance in games like this if he’s to convince us to pay £20m for him this summer.
6. Joelinton IN, Saint-Maximin OUT?
Saint-Maximin is the first name on the team sheet when fit, but Bruce admitted in his presser that the Frenchman was “extremely tired” yesterday having spent most of his time tracking back against City and playing 242 minutes from a possible 270 across our last three games.
His hamstring must be protected, so I can see a fresh Joelinton being recalled and played out wide or just off the front – especially when a leaky Bournemouth side could hand him the perfect chance to add to his goal tally and boost his confidence.
7. Gayle IN, Carroll OUT?
Carroll was a handful against City and did his best in the circumstances, but if there’s any player who won’t be able to start twice in 4 days, it’s him!
This will be a controversial pick based on his costly miss against City, however Bruce did state in his pre-match presser that he’ll be looking to “put it right” against Bournemouth – suggesting he’ll get a chance to redeem himself.
Gayle did score our last Premier League goal in the 1-1 draw with Villa and may feel he needs to get a regular run in the side to rediscover his sharpness in front of goal, but he must start converting these big chances, with the miss against City being one of many sitters he’s snatched at (remember that hat-trick of misses in the 0-1 win at Southampton, the one he skied at Old Trafford and the opportunity he put wide against Burnley?!).
With another game fast approaching and Bruce indicating that big changes may be needed, who do you see starting at the Vitality on Wednesday night?