With today’s crucial clash with Watford just a few hours away, it’s time to predict what side Steve Bruce will go with at Vicarage Road.
Here’s the starting 11 we think we might just see when the teams are released at 2pm:
(4-4-1-1): Darlow – Manquillo, Fernandez, Clark, Lewis – Murphy, Hayden, S Longstaff, Almiron – Joelinton – Saint-Maximin.
OUT – Lascelles, Ritchie and Willock?
IN – Fernandez, Lewis and Murphy?
With Lascelles out, another midfielder injured in Joe Willock and Bruce praising how we played after changing formation last Friday, it feels like we might move back to a four-man defence for this one.
With that in mind, I can see Fernandez coming in for the skipper and Lewis replacing Ritchie; who surely wouldn’t cope with Sarr’s pace if played on the left of a back four. Saying that, I would not be surprised if Bruce sticks with Ritchie…
In midfield, Hayden could partner Longstaff – a partnership that worked well when the latter first burst onto the scene. Hayden has started at the back in each of our last two, but he’ll surely be needed in the middle of the park and pushed up if Bruce does revert back to this formation.
In attack, we need to target Watford’s lack of pace at the back, so I hope to see Jacob Murphy come back in.
Based on what we saw of Danny Rose during his loan spell on Tyneside last year, Murphy could get the better of the ageing ex-Mag – who is expected to start at left-back.
Down the other side, I’d like to think Bruce will use Almiron’s pace and energy to help whoever is at left-back up against Sarr. After all, the Paraguayan did a brilliant job defensively at Old Trafford but also showed his quality on the counter, playing a key role down the left in setting up Manquillo’s goal.
In attack, I expect Joelinton to keep his place after his improved display against Leeds, meaning Saint-Maximin could play just ahead of him in more of a free role – as he did to dangerous effect in our last away outing at Man Utd.