Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez can be expected to drop the axe on at least four of his star men for Sunday’s clash against Manchester United.
The Magpies go into the game at St James’ Park off the back of a 1-1 draw away to Crystal Palace, with Benitez seeing his men let the lead slip thanks to a penalty conceded by Ciaran Clark, after Mo Diame had opened the scoring for the visitors.
With a match against the side sitting second in the Premier League table, the Spanish boss can be expected to make a number of changes in terms of both personnel as well as tactics, as the club look to avenge the 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Jose Mourinho’s men at Old Trafford.
Goalkeeper Karl Darlow, who put in a starring performance against the Eagles, and attackers Matt Ritchie, Ayoze Perez and Dwight Gayle are likely to be axed in place of Martin Dubravka, Mikel Merino, Christian Atsu and Islam Slimani, in what is likely to be a 4-5-1 formation.
At the back, January signing Dubravka has had a week to settle in at St James’ Park and despite a debut against Manchester United being something of a baptism of fire, he was brought to challenge for the starting XI and he can be expected to start behind an unchanged back line.
In the middle of the park, Benitez is likely to bring Merino in place of Perez in order to crowd out the midfield, and offer more bodies to defend from the attack at Mourinho’s disposal.
On the wings, Kenedy, who has made a blistering start to his career on Tyneside, is already looking like a regular feature, and he should be joined by Atsu to offer lightning pace down the flanks to try and make use of the counter attack.
The formation may mean it is a lonely debut for Slimani, who has been missing through injury, but Benitez will be expected to give his new man a start after his absence, as the Magpies look to spring a surprise.