The final day of the 2019/20 Premier League season has arrived, with Steve Bruce facing the Champions Liverpool at St James’ Park today.
As team news goes, we remain without FIVE of our six senior centre-backs. Emil Krafth is also a major doubt, but midfield duo Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff are in contention to return.
With form, fitness and today’s opposition in mind, here’s the starting XI I can see starting come 4pm today:
(5-3-1-1): Dubravka – Manquillo, Hayden, Fernandez, Rose, Ritchie – Shelvey, Bentaleb, Almiron – Saint-Maximin – Gayle.
OUT – Emil Krafth?
IN – Isaac Hayden?
In goal, Dubravka will become one of few Premier League players not to have missed a minute all season. While ASM’s moments of magic have lit up our season, the Slovakian deserves our player of the year award for me.
At the back, we saw Krafth and Rose play either side of Fernandez at Brighton, but with the Swede a doubt and five of our six senior centre-backs remaining sidelines, it wouldn’t surprise me if Hayden slots in given the lack of options and likelihood that we start with five at the back against top opposition. Elsewhere, Fernandez could play in the centre and Rose continuing as a left-sided centre-back after doing a decent job in that unfamiliar role last time out.
A defence consisting of a midfielder, centre-back and a left-back, but Bruce’s pre-match comments suggested U-23 talent Kelland Watts won’t be thrown in for his Premier League debut against Salah, Mane and Firmino after ‘five months’ without football.
Manquillo seems likely to continue at right wing-back, with Yedlin’s time on Tyneside seemingly coming to an end, while Ritchie seems like our only option down the left should Bruce continue with his old system.
In midfield, I’ve noticed Bentaleb and Shelvey have been joined by Almiron at times over the past two games, with the Paraguayan seeming to drop in to form a three without the ball and spring forward when we regain possession.
Hayden is an option if Bruce feels he’s fit and finds a way of sorting out our injury ravaged defence without him, while Sean Longstaff is ‘touch and go’ after returning to training, however I’d imagine we’ll get one last look at our Schalke loanee alongside Shelvey and an energetic Almiron.
Ahead of that trio could well be Saint-Maximin – a player who seems to thrive more in a central role and our biggest weapon if we’re to hurt this Liverpool side in attack.
Then, last but not least, Gayle seems likely to lead the line again after scoring more goals since lockdown than Joelinton has all season.
His movement and energy has been one of the positives to take since football returned, with him improving in front of goal and giving the likes of Shelvey a real target to hit.
Which side do you see starting today? Let us know!