It is going to be a tough match on Saturday, as we welcome Chelsea to St James’ Park. They are the current league leaders, who have lost just once so far this season.
Although we have a good record against Chelsea at home during recent seasons, it is tough to see us getting anything from the game. We need a much improved performance to stand a chance.
Below we predict how Graeme Jones may choose to line up tomorrow:
Martin Dubravka – Jones confirmed that the goalkeeper will be available for the weekend and we are a much better defensive unit when he plays. It will be great to have him back. There may be some rustiness, but the sooner we get him back on the pitch, the quicker he will be back to his best.
Javier Manquillo – There may be a temptation to bring Jacob Murphy back into the team. Against Chelsea, Jones will want to be compact first and foremost. This is why Manquillo will continue at wing back. The Spaniard has been impressive in spells this season.
Emil Krafth – Jones seems to like the Swedish international, which makes it likely that he will retain his place. He was probably the best of the three centre backs last week.
Jamaal Lascelles – The captain will start, even if there are reasonable concerns about his form over the last 12 months. This is an opportunity for him to thrive in a big game. He will want to play well and impress the home fans.
Federico Fernandez – Clark was probably the weakest of the three centre backs last week. The Irishman is a left-footed player, so Jones would like to retain him for that reason, but defensively, he has caused problems. Fernandez is a more consistent and reliable defender. He could come in.
Matt Ritchie – The defensive vulnerability that Ritchie has is a worry, but his ability to create chances means that he will start. Set pieces could be one of our best avenues against Chelsea and Ritchie has proven to be dangerous from dead balls this season.
Isaac Hayden – The former Arsenal player has been criticised for his poor performances this season. It has been a concern to see him perform so poorly in and out of possession. However, we don’t have another ball-winning midfielder, therefore he will retain his place.
Sean Longstaff – The academy graduate was withdrawn early last week and he may be one that could lose his place. Joe Willock will provide more dynamism and mobility in the middle of the park. Longstaff is safer in possession and Jones may opt to start him for this reason.
Miguel Almiron – The Paraguayan has to return to the starting eleven this weekend. He had a huge impact in his short time on the pitch last week, as he was able to win possession and launch a couple of dangerous attacks. As we will concede possession again, we need his directness and quality in transition to give us a chance in attack.
Allan Saint-Maximin – Hopefully, we see a much better performance from the Frenchman. He was a liability last weekend, as he regularly conceded possession and offered little attacking threat. Saint-Maximin does like to save his best for the big games and this is his chance to prove his quality against the current European champions. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a much improved performance.
Callum Wilson – Wilson has been on fire this season, despite the poor results of the team. He will be another that relishes the chance to prove his quality against Chelsea. If we do create chances for him, he could continue his scoring run.
OUT – Darlow, Clark and Fraser.
IN – Dubravka, Fernandez and Almiron.