With tonight’s crucial clash with Aston Villa now just a few hours away, it’s time to predict what our starting 11 could look like when the team sheets are released at 7pm.
Keeping injuries, form and last weekend’s 0-0 draw with West Brom in mind, here’s the team I think Steve Bruce will go with tonight:
(4-3-3): Dubravka – Manquillo, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett – Willock, Shelvey, Hayden – Joelinton, Gayle, Fraser.
Manquillo IN, Krafth OUT? – I think we’ve all established that when both are fit, the Spaniard starts over the Swede. The latter isn’t as solid defensively – struggling far more with 1 vs 1’s – doesn’t look comfortable on the ball and can be poor positionally. If Manquillo is fit to start, it should be a no-brainer for Bruce.
Gayle IN, Hendrick OUT? – The Irishman offered nothing last weekend and was hooked off just 10 minutes into the second half. Bruce has talked up the idea of Joe Willock dropping back into a midfield three for this one, so I could see him playing slightly deeper – a move that would allow Gayle to play in the middle of Fraser and Joelinton in more of a 4-3-3. I thought Gayle would play at West Brom and he didn’t, making this a dubious one to back, but our lack of a striker at West Brom combined with Carroll’s lack of anything these days should see our forgotten forward return to the starting line up.
Elsewhere, Dummett should keep his place after being one of few to play well against the Baggies. Some are calling for Shelvey and Joelinton to come out of the side, but they were two of our better plays last time out (not that it took much) and seem unlikely to be dropped by Bruce as a result.
Potential alternatives to both are Matty Longstaff and Jacob Murphy, but the former hasn’t been making matchday squads of late and the latter wasn’t even brought on from the bench at The Hawthorn’s – although he could be a useful impact sub in this one!
There’s been inevitable calls for Carroll to come in, but his last start was in that 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa; a game that saw him offer absolutely nothing if memory serves me correct. I want him to do well, but he’s sadly offered nothing to suggest he’s still good enough to cut it at Premier League level.
How do you see us lining up tonight? Let us know!