Bruce starts his ‘strongest side’ & makes 3 changes in our predicted XI to face Everton

Steve Bruce hinted after Monday’s defeat to Leeds that he’s yet to field his ‘strongest side’ so far this season – hinting that would include Allan Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almiron and Ryan Fraser.

Now all three are finally fit following his vow to “do it my way”, will he keep the “gloves off” and start them all at Goodison Park this afternoon?

Keeping form, fitness and Bruce’s recent comments in mind, here’s the team I think we might see start against Everton come 12.30pm:

(4-2-3-1) Dubravka – Manquillo, Lascelles, Schar, Lewis – Hayden, Shelvey – Fraser, Almiron, Saint-Maximin – Wilson.

OUT – Darlow, Murphy and Hendrick?

IN – Dubravka, Manquillo and Saint-Maximin?

I’ve been wrong in backing Dubravka to return in recent weeks, but feel it’s a matter of time until Bruce brings him back into the side. Darlow’s not done a great deal wrong, but his distribution has put us on the back foot in recent weeks and I’m still not sure what he was doing for Watkins’ goal last weekend. I’d have no issue if he starts – he’s been brilliant – however I do feel Dubravka remains our No 1 for a reason.

At the back, Manquillo has trained so could be in line to return for Murphy; who was at fault for Leeds’ opener and struggled defensively in midweek.

In the middle, Lascelles and Schar appear to be our only fit centre-backs once again. Bruce has rarely played a four-man defence when Schar is involved, but it’s about time we got Hayden back into midfield – especially when one less centre-back (which we have so few of fit) allows Saint-Maximin to return in attack!

Lewis to continue at left-back and a midfield two of Hayden and Shelvey. It may seem harsh on Hendrick given he had a solid second half against Leeds, but he’s been an absolute passenger in our last two away games at Villa and Sheffield United. I’d probably prefer to see Matty replace Jonjo against Everton, but the latter somehow seems to be back in Bruce’s good books now he’s overcome that groin injury.

In attack, is this finally the day we see Saint-Maximin, Almiron and Fraser all start behind Wilson?

Bruce stated after the Leeds loss that he’s never been able to play his best side this season, so you’d like to think he’ll finally give that a go now ASM has got two cameos under his belt following a long battle with COVID.

That said, what the NUFC boss says and does tend to be two VERY different things, so it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if one of those attackers is benched to make way for another defender in a 5-3-1-1!

Let us know how you see us lining up today!

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About Olly Hawkins

Olly has been a Junior Magpie from birth. As a season ticket holder and avid Newcastle United fan - he eats, sleeps and breathes all things NUFC.

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