Injuries and fatigue were bound to catch up with us after three months off has been followed up with a ridiculous five games in 15 days.
The schedule has been gruelling, and Bruce has confirmed in his pre-match press conference that as many as EIGHT first-team players could miss tonight’s game as a result (Lascelles, Lejeune, Clark, Hayden, S Longstaff, Almiron, Saint-Maximin and Carroll).
Time will tell and a few could yet make it, but if all of the above miss out as expected, this is the new-look NUFC side I can see starting tonight:
(4-5-1): Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Fernandez, Rose – Lazaro, Shelvey, Bentaleb, M Longstaff, Ritchie – Gayle.
I have also included an alternative predicted XI should Bruce go against his new formation and return to a back five (see this at the bottom of the article), but this is something like the side we may see start at City tonight.
OUT – Lascelles, Manquillo, Hayden, Almiron, Saint-Maximin, Joelinton?
IN – Schar, Rose, Bentaleb, M Longstaff, Ritchie, Lazaro?
Dubravka will likely continue in goal, and may need to be at his best if we’re to stand a chance here, but it’s the defence that may be forced to change.
It sounds like Lascelles is a doubt after aggravating an ankle injury that almost kept him out of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with West Ham. He had a rare off day over the weekend and should be saved for Saturday’s trip to Watford instead, so it looks like Schar will come back in here and partner Fernandez?
The Swiss international was poor in our last game with City and doesn’t seem suited to a four-man defence, but Bruce doesn’t have many other options with Lejeune and Clark not yet fully fit and Dummett ineligible!
At right-back, Krafth did another good job on Sunday and looks a lot more suited in a flat back four after previously struggling at wing-back. Yedlin will be hoping for a start, but I can only see him coming in if we play five at the back with Krafth, Fernandez and Schar in the middle (see below).
Down the other side, Bruce has already confirmed Rose will start after being rested for our last two, so that may give Manquillo a break – and a well earned one too after starting all of our 5 games back so far!
I can then see Bruce packing out the midfield make up for the lack of options at the back. With energetic duo Hayden and Sean Longstaff missing, Bentaleb will start – and he deserves to after another slick showing on Sunday – and I can see Shelvey and Matty Longstaff playing alongside him, with one of them tasked to break forward the rare occasion we get the ball and look to counter. Should Bruce go with a five-man defence, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if either Matty drops out or Shelvey makes way so he can be fresh for Saturday’s more winnable trip to Watford?
With ASM and Almiron major doubts and expected to be rested, Bruce has already confirmed Lazaro will start – and it’s about time! It’s not exactly an easy game for him to come into and I still maintain he should’ve been in from the off against West Ham after his brilliant cameo at Bournemouth, but at least he’ll be able to show what he can do for more than just 15 minutes here!
Down the left it could well be Joelinton, however it seems like a good time to bring Ritchie into the side now he appears to be fit again, with his energy and drive something we’ll need plenty of if we’re to avoid a hammering here. Saying that, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s part of a midfield three (to save Shelvey for Watford) and Joelinton is played on the left again to give us more of a threat on the counter?
Up top, it’ll be Gayle or Joelinton you would think. Gayle doesn’t like being isolated and perhaps suits a counter-attacking approach less than the more powerful Brazilian, however he’s bagged two goals and an assist in his last three Premier League outings and deserves another start here.
Alternatively, here’s our predicted XI just incase Bruce goes back to five-man defence:
So, a new-look Newcastle Utd line up seems likely no matter, with this being our first mini injury crisis since football returned.
What side would you like to see Bruce go with tonight? Let us know below!