With tonight’s trip to Aston Villa now just a few hours away, it’s time to predict what our starting 11 might look like come 8pm.
Keeping form, fitness and Bruce’s ‘my way’ comments in mind, here’s the team I think the under-fire NUFC boss might just go with:
(4-4-2): Dubravka– Krafth, Lascelles, Schar, Lewis – Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Fraser– Wilson, Carroll.
OUT – Darlow, Clark, M Longstaff and Joelinton?
IN – Dubravka, Schar, Hayden and Fraser?
Starting in goal, I’ve got a feeling Bruce is going to recall Dubravka. It would be so harsh on Darlow, who has barely put a foot wrong, however some feel he should’ve done better with Aumayenag’s shot and his kicking kept us on the back foot at times.
At the back, Lascelles seems highly likely to partner Schar. Given their recent form and the fact the latter is rarely played in a back four, I wondered if we’d see Dummett join them on the left-side of a back three – however it seems he’s now got another injury issue after Bruce decided to play him twice in three days so soon after barely kicking a ball in 2020.
At right-back, I’d far prefer Manquillo to Krafth, but he’s not got a look in since he got COVID and Yedlin is rarely picked at right-back unless we’re playing a five-man defence, meaning Krafth and Lewis seem likely to continue. The former Norwich man is struggling badly, but I’m not sure what other options we have if it’s a back four Bruce sticks with.
I wouldn’t rule out Lascelles, Schar and Hayden in a three with Ritchie and Yedlin at wing-back, but that would see Bruce immediately ditch a formation he’s vowed to play more! He is a walking contradiction, mind…
In the middle of the park there has to be changes. Shelvey should be the one to go, but I think Bruce will stick with him and simply bring Hayden back in for Matty Longstaff.
Out wide, Almiron deserves another start after being our best outfield player at Arsenal and the only one to carry the ball forward, but Joelinton will surely come out of the side after offering absolutely nothing.
Ritchie could well come into Bruce’s thinking (not my first choice but he’ll be seen as ‘reliable’), however it could and should be Fraser who returns to the side after serving a one-game ban. He needs to be MUCH better after letting us down last time out, but players like him could be key to our revival, meaning minutes under his belt to get match fit could be key – especially when Carroll was starved of crosses at Arsenal.
Joelinton returning to that second striker role behind Wilson is a possibility, but I fancy Bruce to give Wilson and ‘big Andy’ another go up top.