With tonight’s FA Cup clash against Arsenal fast approaching, it’s time to predict what our starting 11 might look like at The Emirates come 5.30pm – and we reckon there might be wholesale changes.
Keeping form, fitness and our upcoming schedule in mind, here’s the team I think Steve Bruce might just go with:
(5-3-2): Darlow – Murphy, Krafth, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie – Hendrick, Hayden, Shelvey – Carroll, Gayle.
OUT – Darlow, Clark, Fernandez, Schar, Yedlin, M Longstaff, S Longstaff, Almiron, Joelinton, Wilson?
IN – Dubravka, Dummett, Lascelles, Krafth, Murphy, Hendrick, Hayden, Shelvey, Gayle, Carroll?
Lots of changes here and a formation that may well be way off, but I think Bruce may shake things up and rest a few key players ahead of our crucial trip to Sheffield United in just a few days time (Tuesday).
One player who’s already been named as a definite starter is Martin Dubravka, with Bruce confirming the fit-again Slovakian will come in for his first game of 2020/21.
I reckon Bruce will go with a back five once again and hand rests to Clark, Fernandez and Schar – three players who’ve recently overcome COVID or injuries yet been forced to play just about every game over the festive period!
He may also want to protect the fully recovered Jamaal Lascelles, so I can see Emil Krafth and Paul Dummett playing either side of the skipper, with Jacob Murphy offering an outlet in attack from right wing-back and Matt Ritchie continuing down the left in Jamal Lewis’ absence.
That said, Javier Manquillo could well play after he was back on the bench last weekend, so wouldn’t be surprised if he was at RWB with Murphy ahead of him in more of a 5-4-1.
Then to midfield, I reckon Bruce may go for three as he’s done twice this season (in the 1-1 draw at Wolves and home win vs Everton). Jonjo Shelvey will almost certainly come back in if his ‘sore groin’ has settled down, Isaac Hayden should return against his former club fresh from a one-game ban and I can also see Jeff Hendrick getting himself a rare start.
That then leaves two up top, and I reckon we may see the ‘big man, little man’ approach in Andy Carroll and Dwight Gayle – two players who’ve recently scored goals at St James’ Park but are finding game-time hard to come by.
He may feel this is the perfect time to give both a shot and hinted at playing two up top in his latest presser. So, that’d mean Callum Wilson is rested for next week’s must win match against the Blades and Joelinton and Miguel Almiron dropped after poor displays against Leicester last week?
Let us know how you see us lining up tonight in the comments below!