A chance to move into the last 16 of the Carabao Cup comes our way tonight, with us travelling to League Two side Morecambe in the Third Round.
Steve Bruce had a positive selection dilemma not so long ago after opening weeks wins over West Ham and Blackburn, however he’s under pressure to get it right here after Sunday’s horror show saw Brighton batter us 0-3.
With form, fitness and likely rotation in mind here’s the side I can see him going this side:
(4-4-1-1): Gillespie – Krafth, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett – Ritchie, Hendrick, Barlaser, Fraser – Almiron – Joelinton.
Gillespie will almost certainly get another chance in goal after being one of our best players in that 1-0 win over Blackburn, as will Clark – who didn’t put a foot wrong on his return last Tuesday.
I can’t see Yedlin starting after transfer links saw him train away from the main group this week, meaning Krafth could well start in a more familiar right-back role.
Lascelles may play again to deal with the physical threat the League Two side could pose (and he’ll want to put things right after his stinker on Sunday). Dummett may come back in at left-back in Lewis’ absence, but it’d be no surprise if Manquillo starts given the local lad has only recently returned to training.
I have a feeling Bruce will stick with Sean Longstaff, but surely these are the games Barlaser must start if Bruce wants to take another look at him before making a final decision? With that in mind, I can see the hard-working Hendrick starting alongside the former Rotherham loan star, with him keen to show Bruce what he can do in the centre after insisting that was his best position after arriving from Burnley. .
Sean Longstaff could well be given the chance to play in a more advanced no.10 role – something Bruce has hinted at recently – although it remains to be seen if that position will be taken up by Almiron.
If so, I can see Fraser starting on the left and Ritchie down the right with Almiron playing just behind Joelinton and Longstaff missing out – unless Bruce rests Hendrick and goes with the same midfield duo that struggled against Blackburn.
As for Joelinton, he isn’t a lone striker, but with Gayle injured, Muto now with Eibar and Carroll/Wilson starting against Brighton, our £40m man may be put up top once again. He shouldn’t be, but I can see it happening.
If he does, let’s hope we get bodies close to him and don’t leave him so isolated – although his first touch, movement and general intensity has to be better and not resembling that awful afternoon he had at Rochdale in last season’s FA Cup.