After making wholesale changes in midweek, it’ll be interesting to see if Bruce ticks with the side who beat West Ham last weekend or hands starts to those who impressed against Blackburn.
With pre-season form and fitness in mind, here’s the side I can see starting at St James’ Park today:
Predicted NUFC XI (4-4-2): Darlow – Manquillo, Lascelles, Fernandez, Lewis – Hendrick, Hayden, Shelvey, Saint-Maximin – Carroll, Wilson.
There wasn’t many who stood out in Tuesday’s fortunate 1-0 win, but Fraser scored on his debut and is training well according to Bruce, Almiron bagged another assist with a sublime through ball and Clark and Gillespie didn’t put a foot wrong at the back.
That said, it seems highly unlikely that Bruce will change a winning side – hence why I’ve gone with an unchanged line up.
Carroll won’t be in the side ahead of Almiron in the long-term for me, but I don’t see Bruce leaving him out after his rest in midweek and dominant display against the Hammers – not to mention there were signs of an nice partnership forming between him and Wilson.
Ryan Fraser is another who’ll be in Bruce’ best 11 before long, but perhaps this one comes too soon for him after just one start in 6 months. That aside, who would you drop to bring him in? Saint-Maximin is the first name on the team sheet and Hendrick won’t be dropped anytime soon if he keeps playing as he did last weekend!
Clark is another one. I can’t see Lascelles and Fernandez being split up just yet, but Bruce described the Irish international’s comeback performance as ‘immaculate’ after Tuesday’s game – and he wasn’t wrong! There’ll come a point where he’ll be expecting to start now he’s fit again and hasn’t let us down for so long.
Darlow should continue in Dubravka’s absence, but Gillespie’s debut display against Blackburn will give Bruce food for thought and something to think about for our current ‘no.1’ in the Slovakian’s absence.
In time, you’d hope Joelinton can start showing his worth and thrive in a deeper role either off Wilson or out wide, although it says a lot about his struggles and uninspiring display in midweek that he’s almost certain to be benched today.