Steve Bruce has named EIGHT players who “will play” in tonight’s Carabao Cup clash with Blackburn at St James’ Park.
The boss confirmed yesterday that there would be ‘wholesale changes’ to the team that beat West Ham 0-2 on Saturday, and has now revealed that Joelinton, Ryan Fraser, Miguel Almiron, Matt Ritchie, Sean Longstaff, Emil Krafth and Ciaran Clark will all come into his side tonight.
One other who’ll play is Mark Gillespie, with Bruce telling BBC Newcastle’s Matthew Raisbeck that he too will make his debut.
Here’s what he told the Shields Gazette, giving fans some big early team news ahead of the 7.30pm kick off on Tyneside:
“I’ll rotate, but when I look at the squad, and the players we’ve got coming into it … Joelinton will play, (Miguel) Almiron will play, Ryan Fraser will play, Matt Ritchie will play, (Sean) Longstaff will play, Ciaran Clark will come back into the team, Emil Krafth, who is a Swedish international, will play.
“When I look at the players that we’ve got who need to go and play, yes, I will be making changes, but I’m not changing my philosophy.
“It would be great to have another cup run. Why not?”
“I will make changes.
“When I looked behind me on Saturday, there’s seven of them sitting there, probably five or six of them might have started last year.
“So I’ve got a much stronger squad.”
So, who are the other 4 and what areas of the pitch are up for grabs?
With Wilson and Carroll likely to be saved for Sunday, Gayle out injured and Muto closing in on a loan move to Spain, Joelinton may well start up top, with Miguel Almiron just behind him.
Fraser will be out wide and Ritchie could operate down the opposite flank, however the latter could well start at left-back – unless Bruce hands Lewis another start or throws Yedlin in (he was spotted playing here once or twice over pre-season).
In the middle, Barlaser will be pushing for a start alongside Sean Longstaff. Matty isn’t fit and I expect Shelvey and Hayden to be wrapped in cotton wool, but the ultra-fit Hendrick could well get the nod in his favoured position if Bruce opts against handing Barlaser a big chance to impress.
At centre-back, I can see Clark being partnered by Fernandez, with Lascelles not long returning from ankle surgery and unlikely to play three times in a week after missing a few of our pre-season friendlies.
So, several players with a point to prove and debuts to come for Fraser and Gillespie. Let’s hope we can keep the momentum up ahead of Sunday’s visit of Brighton and get through to the third round, where a winnable clash with Morecambe or Oldham awaits.