It is crucial that Steve Bruce selects a strong team tomorrow and the performance is much better than we saw in the week.
Although a loss away to Manchester City isn’t the end of the world, the manner of the performance was a huge worry. The players looked like they were on the beach already and if there are similar displays to follow, the belief in Bruce will drop even lower than it is now.
Taking injuries and form into account, this could be the team we see tomorrow:
Martin Dubravka is the obvious selection here. The Slovakian international is on a long run of successive starts in the Premier League.
In fact, he hasn’t missed a game in the competition since his debut. Following some frustrating performances, he will be hoping to keep a clean sheet on Saturday.
Following some rotation in the week, the favoured back four should be reinstated to start at Watford.
Javier Manquillo is likely to start in his favoured right-back position. The Spaniard has earned a new long term contract thanks to his form under Bruce. He will want to finish the campaign strongly and secure the role for next season.
Jamaal Lascelles may have made an error against West Ham, but his leadership and positional awareness were missed against Manchester City. There was a nervousness at the back that doesn’t usually exist with the skipper in the team. Federico Fernandez should continue as his defensive partner, despite him having a shocker on Wednesday.
There has been speculation that Danny Rose could be signed permanently in the summer. Although there has been a steady improvement since the end of lockdown, he will need to show more to convince some supporters.
The injuries have left Bruce short of options in the centre of the park. Last weekend, Jonjo Shelvey was excellent against West Ham. He could be given license to roam forwards against Watford. The Englishman has contributed a goal and an assist during his last three Premier League matches.
The application and desire of Nabil Bentaleb was criticised on social media during the loss to Manchester City. He has a lot to do to earn a permanent contract, but he should get another opportunity on Saturday.
Allan Saint-Maximin should return to the team following a rest against Manchester City. There have been some niggles, but Bruce confirmed he was back in training. He looked tired against West Ham, which is why he needed to sit out of the Manchester City game. Against Watford, he should be able to have a big impact.
Another player who should come back in is Miguel Almiron. The Paraguayan was an unused substitute against Manchester City and appears to be fit again. He has two goals in his last two outings.
Matt Ritchie started against Manchester City and he could be given the nod again on Saturday. He brings leadership and he demands high standards from all around him.
There are now options for Bruce in the striking role. Many will object, but it could be a good decision to start with Joelinton.
The coming weeks could determine his short term future and he should be given every opportunity to show his ability. That said, it really is a toss up between him and Gayle!
OUT – Schar, Krafth, Yedlin Lazaro?
IN – Lascelles, Manquillo, Almiron, Saint-Maximin?
(4-2-3-1): Dubravla – Manquillo, Lascelles, Fernandez, Rose – Bentaleb, Shelvey – Saint-Maximin, Almiron, Ritchie – Joelinton.