Ahead of tonight’s clash with the Cottagers, it’s time to predict what our starting 11 might look like at St James’ Park in a few hours time.
Keeping form, fitness, our hectic schedule and tonight’s opponents in mind, here’s the team I think Steve Bruce might just go with come 8pm:
Predicted NUFC XI (4-4-1-1): Darlow – Krafth, Fernandez, Clark, Lewis – Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Ritchie – Joelinton – Wilson.
OUT – S Longstaff, Hendrick, Murphy, Fraser?
IN – Krafth, Shelvey, Ritchie, Almiron?
Starting at the back, I can see Krafth coming in at right-back. Murphy was decent going forward and used his pace well when he got moved up to the right wing on Wednesday, but I’m not sure Bruce will match him up against the dangerous Ademola Lookman after he struggled to cope defensively at Elland Road. You could argue Krafth could be done for pace by the RB Leipzig loanee, however he was rested in midweek and seems likely to return in Manquillo’s absence.
I think Lewis needs taking out of the team, but the lack of natural options at left-back (when playing a flat back four) means he’s more than likely to continue.
In midfield, Shelvey will almost certainly return, but I think Sean Longstaff is another who needs protecting. Not only did he look leggy at Leeds, he dithered on the ball in bad areas and simply isn’t playing well enough to warrant a start for me. Bruce may well shift Hendrick into the centre, but if Hayden is fit enough to play again I can see him partnering Shelvey. He’s our fittest player according to the gaffer, so I’m hoping he makes it.
Out wide, Almiron seems likely to be recalled after a rest at Leeds – especially when he got on the scoresheet in our last home win over West Brom. On the other wing I’m hoping to see Fraser get another start, but it may be asking a lot for him to play twice in four days – despite the fact he helped create both goals at Leeds. With that in mind, I think Ritchie will come back in after his rest in midweek.
Up top, it’s likely Joelinton continues just behind Callum Wilson Gayle will be knocking on the door after his goal made all the difference in our last home game, however his proven quality against Championship sides makes him guaranteed to start at Brentford next Tuesday for me.
How do you see us lining up come 8pm tonight?