With tonight’s Carabao Cup clash with Burnley edging closer, it’s time to predict what side Steve Bruce will go with at St James’ Park.
Here’s the starting 11 and wholesale changes we are expecting when the team sheets are released at 6.45pm.
(5-3-2): Gillespie – Manquillo, Krafth, Lascelles, Clark, Lewis – Hendrick, S Longstaff, Fraser – Joelinton, Gayle.
OUT – Woodman, Murphy, Schar, Fernandez, Ritchie, Hayden, Willock, Almiron, Saint-Maximin and Wilson?
IN – Gillespie, Krafth, Clark, Lewis, S Longstaff, Hendrick, Fraser, Joelinton and Gayle?
Starting in goal, we need to wrap Woodman in cotton wool now Dubravka and Darlow remain several weeks away from returning, so it seems local lad Mark Gillespie will get his chance in goal.
At the back, Krafth is likely to come in for Schar after missing out at Villa and Lascelles could be handed another start for some much needed game time he missed out on over pre-season. It’s also logical that Clark comes back in for Fernandez, with the former on the bench last weekend.
At wing-back, Lewis seems nailed on down the left after failing to feature in either of our opening two games, giving Ritchie a rest. Down the right, a part of me thinks Murphy will be one of few regulars Bruce sticks with, however Manquillo didn’t feature much over pre-season and needs minutes, meaning the Spaniard should start if fit enough.
In midfield, Willock won’t be able to start three games in seven days after a disjointed pre-season, Shelvey is out for a month and Hayden also has a knock, so Jeff Hendrick and Sean Longstaff appear likely to fill in.
There’s a chance Matty comes in for his brother if Sean will be needed on Saturday in Hayden’s potential absence, however it looks like Longstaff junior is leaving on loan – so we may not risk him.
Like Lewis, another change that looks highly likely is Almiron out and Fraser in. The former Bournemouth star is learning that ‘no.8’ role as part of this formation’s midfield three and has been unlucky not to start either of our opening games after a bright pre-season.
Up top, Wilson and Saint-Maximin will be on the bench if needed but saved for Southampton, meaning Joelinton should partner Dwight Gayle up top – a man who has barely had a kick since scoring two against Norwich City in our final friendly of the summer.
A lot of changes there, but I think Bruce will be giving fringe men a chance and privately prioritising Saturday’s clash with Southampton in search of our first league win of 2021/22.
How do you see us lining up for tonight’s game? Let us know in the comments below!