Ahead of tonight’s clash with the Manchester City, it’s time to predict what our starting 11 might look like at The Etihad come 8pm.
Keeping form, fitness, our hectic schedule and tonight’s opponents in mind, here’s the team I think Steve Bruce might just go with:
Predicted NUFC XI (5-4-1): Darlow – Murphy, Fernandez, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie – Fraser, Hendrick, Hayden, Joelinton – Gayle.
OUT – Yedlin, Lewis, Shelvey, S Longstaff, Almiron, Wilson.
IN – Dummett, Fernandez, Ritchie, Hendrick, Joelinton, Gayle.
With Bruce needing some sort of response from that unacceptable display in midweek, I’m pretty sure he’ll go for fresh legs and hard workers here.
Darlow to continue in goal with Dubravka not yet ready, Ritchie to return at left wing-back to take a struggling Lewis out of the firing line and a return to a five-man defence, with Dummett filling in at centre-back and Fernandez coming back in alongside Clark.
Schar and Lascelles are back in training, but it seems the game might come too soon for both.
At right wing-back, Yedlin seems unlikely to play three games in 7 days after so long without a start all season, Manquillo has only just returned to training and Krafth isn’t a wing-back, so I can see Murphy playing here. He’s quick enough to cause problems the odd time we counter and is one of few in our side who may be able to stay with Raheem Sterling!
In midfield, Dummett and Fernandez’s likely return in defence could allow Hayden to come back into a midfield that’s missed his ability to get into tackles and cover ground. It’s uninspiring, but Hendrick hasn’t started our last few and both Shelvey and Sean Longstaff have looked way off it, so I can see the Irishman getting a game here.
Out wide, Fraser was taken off with time to spare against Brentford and didn’t start against Fulham, so his pace, energy and quality on the counter could give City something to think about.
On the other wing, I think Joelinton will come back in. Almiron’s pace on the break and work rate could’ve made him ideal for this game, but he was anonymous at Brentford so could well make way.
Up top, I think this may be the game we see Wilson get a well deserved rest. After all, FIVE starts in 13 days is asking for trouble. Carroll will be knocking on Bruce’s door, but he’s not mobile enough to cause City any problems when we’ll be relying on the odd counter attack, meaning Gayle may get his first start since that winning goal vs West Brom.
How do you see us lining up when the team sheets are released at 7pm today? Let us know!