A few days on from our impressive draw against the Champions, it’s time to predict what our starting 11 might look like ahead of today’s clash with Leicester City at St James’ Park.
Keeping form, fitness and today’s opponents in mind, here’s the team I think Steve Bruce might go with come 2.15pm:
(5-4-1): Darlow – Yedlin, Fernandez, Schar, Clark, Ritchie – Almiron, S Longstaff, M Longstaff, Joelinton – Wilson.
OUT – Hayden and Murphy?
IN – Sean Longstaff and Almiron?
Martin Dubravka is fit again, but Karl Darlow won’t be losing that ‘No 1’ spot anytime soon after another heroic display in our last outing!
With Lascelles set to miss out again, Fernandez, Schar and Clark looks set to continue at centre-back. Some will ask for Bruce to revert back to a four-man defence, however the Foxes are devastating on the break if given too much space, so I see us continuing with a five.
At wing-back, the likes of Krafth, Manquillo and Murphy are all capable of filling in for Yedlin, yet the American was another who did brilliantly against Liverpool. He’s not played much this season so three games in 8 days could be a stretch, but his pace may be needed against Harvey Barnes if he’s deemed fit enough to go again.
On the left, Ritchie looked a bit more like his old self in Wednesday night’s draw. His lack of pace caught him out at times, meaning Lewis could be recalled against a Leicester side who could expose Ritchie on the break, however I’d like to bet Bruce will stick with the same back five that kept Salah, Mane and Firmino out a few days ago.
In midfield, Hayden’s one-game ban means his highly promising partnership with Matty Longstaff will be broken up. Their energy, pressing and superior fitness levels have been impressive and key to our recent success, so I don’t feel like Shelvey (who also has an ongoing groin issue) would be a wise Hayden replacement.
Hendrick is another who isn’t that mobile, so I can see Sean Longstaff coming back in and partnering his brother in the middle. He’s been sloppy of late, but his ability to press and cover plenty groin could make him the best Hayden replacement available to Bruce.
Out wide, I feel Murphy tired pretty early into the second half against Liverpool so could be replaced by Almiron, while our lack of fit wingers (ASM and Fraser remain sidelined) means Joelinton could be given another run out down the left.
Up top, Callum Wilson will surely get the nod and will be tasked to give us that platform to build on in attack after his movement, hold up play, pace and physicality caused Liverpool problems in midweek.
How do you see us lining up today? Let us know!