The weekend may be over and we seem no closer to knowing whether a takeover is going to go through or not, however at least we have football back on our screens tonight.
A small consolation when our season has somewhat fizzled out, but we may see one of our Academy products and local lads make his debut, with Kelland Watts tipped to benefit from the fact Federico Fernandez is our ONLY fit senior centre-back coming into this one!
Elsewhere, Saint-Maximin is a ‘big doubt’, Hayden and S Longstaff will miss out once again and Andy Carroll could return after missing our last few fixtures.
With form and fitness in mind, here’s the side I can see starting at the Amex come 6pm:
(4-2-3-1): Dubravka – Manquillo, Fernandez, Watts, Rose – Bentaleb, Shelvey – Lazaro, Almiron, Joelinton – Gayle.
OUT – Schar, Krafth, Yedlin, Ritchie, Saint-Maximin?
IN – Watts, Manquillo, Rose, Lazaro, Joelinton.
Dubravka has started every league game so far this season and made more saves than any other Premier League stopper in the mean time, so we can expect to see him between the sticks.
The defence is anyone’s guess, but with every senior centre-back bar Federico Fernandez ruled out and U-23 talent Kelland Watts now cleared to play by the Premier League, we may well see the Alnwick-born defender make his Premier League debut alongside the Argentine.
Krafth is an option, but he’s struggled the two times Bruce has used him in central areas over the past few weeks, particularly in the second half of that 1-3 defeat to Spurs.
As a result, Manquillo may return at right-back after a rest, while Rose will almost certainly come in down the left after being ineligible to play against his parent club last time out.
Hamstring stricken duo Hayden and Sean Longstaff have been described as ‘big doubts’ and surely won’t be risked again this season, while Matty Longstaff doesn’t seem all that likely to start until his contract situation is sorted (which it still isn’t based on Bruce’s frustrated comments over the weekend!), so Bentaleb and Shelvey seem likely to continue in the middle.
With Saint-Maximin picking up a calf problem, I’d like to see Lazaro get a chance to show what he can do from the off (not just a 10-minute cameo when the game is gone!), although Bruce tends to favour Ritchie when fit. He scored a stunner last time out, but surely it’s time to see what Lazaro is capable of before we decide whether he’s worth paying £20m for ahead of his return to Inter Milan?
Elsewhere, Joelinton could come back into the side down the left after only featuring as a late sub in our last two, while Almiron seems likely to continue in the no.10 role behind an in-form Gayle.
What team can you see Steve Bruce going with ahead of our penultimate game of the 2019/20 season tonight? Let us know!