With the new season just over a month old, it’s fair to say things need to change – and quick.
No wins. More goals conceded than any other side (12), out of the League Cup, a manager blaming the local press for fan ‘negativity’ and our most important player already injured.
It’s a real shame Callum Wilson won’t make this one, as he could’ve hurt a Leeds side who have just ONE senior centre-back fit for this one, however that in itself should have Allan Saint-Maximin licking his lips.
With Leeds set to bring a big following up to St James’ Park and it always a rowdy atmosphere when the two sides meet, this has the potential to be a tasty game and meeting a pair of northern giants in dire need of points.
That said, will the players and Steve Bruce give us something to get behind? Or, as we’ve seen in recent weeks, will chants of “WE WANT BRUCIE OUT” be louder than our response to yet another defeat last weekend?
This is first of three winnable games before the international break – we have Leeds, Watford and Wolves to come between now and October 2nd – so it could be the perfect springboard for Bruce in his battle to steady a sinking ship or the moment he hits the iceberg.
- Willock, Clark, Manquillo – All passed fit to play, despite picking up ‘knocks’ in the 4-1 defeat at Man Utd.
- Ryan Fraser – ‘In contention’ after returning to training this week.
- Karl Darlow – Fit again and could start for the first time since February if Bruce decides to drop Woodman.
- Callum Wilson – Ruled out with a thigh injury. Expected to miss our next three games.
- Jonjo Shelvey – Remains out with a calf injury.
- Martin Dubravka – Could be back in training next week after an infection in his foot has cleared.
- Paul Dummett – Has suffered a setback with a calf injury picked up over pre-season.
For the visitors, Bielsa has confirmed that Pascal Struijk, Robin Koch, Diego Llorente and Adam Forshaw are all out of tomorrow night’s game, leaving them with just one fit centre-back in Liam Cooper.
Patrick Bamford has been passed fit, however, despite rumours he could miss out with a hamstring problem.
Predicted line ups
(5-3-2): Darlow – Manquillo, Hayden, Lascelles Clark, Ritchie – S Longstaff, Willock, Almiron – Saint-Maximin, Gayle.
(4-1-4-1): Meslier – Dallas, Ayling, Cooper, Firpo – Phillips – Raphinha, Klich, Roberts, Harrison – Bamford.
We may have conceded a few poor goals and collapsed late on at Old Trafford, but I think Steve Bruce may just stick with the new-look defence that started at Man Utd.
This could mean Murphy, Schar and Fernandez remain on the bench for this one, however I can see Karl Darlow will come back into the side now he’s fit again and fully recovered from Covid.
Freddie Woodman struggled last weekend and has conceded twelve goals in four league games so far, so Bruce seems likely to go with the man that rarely let him down last season – especially in such a big game he know he needs to win.
I also think the midfield will be unchanged, providing we stick with a 5-3-2.
Willock and Longstaff did a lot of good work both on and off the ball at Man Utd, while Almiron could come to life against a Leeds side who give you space to get in behind their midfield if you break the press.
Up top, I can see Dwight Gayle replacing Joelinton.
The former has barely kicked a ball this season, but the big Brazilian isn’t an out and out striker who makes good runs into the box – which is exactly what we’ll need against a makeshift Leeds defence able to start just one senior centre-back.
I can see there being plenty of goals in this one.
No one has conceded more than us this season (12), yet Leeds have the second worst defence in the league four games in.
Mix that with the fact both sides will be gunning for all three points after winless starts to 2021/22, I think we could be in for plenty action at both ends.
Sadly, I think Ritchie could struggle badly with Raphinha’s pace and trickery and see Bamford’s movement as another area of concern, so fear we’ll end up on the wrong side of a five-goal thriller on Friday night.
Let’s hope the lads can prove me wrong and take us into the weekend with a much needed win!
Prediction: Newcastle 2-3 Leeds