Interesting to see what the Newcastle team v Manchester City will be.
Four points from the Aston Villa and Sheffield United matches have put the Magpies safe now, the bookies making the Magpies 500/1 shots to go down now.
So Man City in the FA Cup on Sunday, a place in the semi-finals to be decided on the day with extra-time and penalties if necessary, what will / should the starting eleven be?
Considering Newcastle were 11 points clear with only eight Premier League matches remaining, it was a surprising team selection on Wednesday.
As well as effectively PL safety and a key FA Cup game following only four days later, Steve Bruce had constantly talked about protecting his players from injury after restart, yet played exactly the same team as against Sheff Utd three days earlier.
This was the starting eleven against Villa (and Sheff Utd), plus the exact same nine subs:
Dubravka, Manquillo, Fernandez, Lascelles, Rose, Hayden, Shelvey, Ritchie, Almiron, Joelinton, Saint-Maximin
(Subs) Darlow, Schar, Lazaro, Yedlin, Bentalebm Carroll, Gayle, Muto and Krafth
If key players had been rested against Villa and no new injuries, I think most people would have assumed the same team that faced Sheffield United would also have lined up against Manchester City.
Obviously that isn’t the case though and both Matt Ritchie and Isaac Hayden were forced off through injuries / knocks.
On Friday morning Steve Bruce said he would see how training went on Friday and Saturday before deciding on the participation (or not) of Ritchie and Hayden on Sunday, as well as the rest of the squad as well of course.
Even without new injuries, it would have always been unlikely that the exact same team would start in all three matches in the opening eight days and maybe now a case of just how many changes Steve Bruce will make, rather than whether there will be any.
I also think maybe a formation change to five at the back would have happened regardless.
My belief is that Ritchie and Hayden will make the bench at best after limping off on Wednesday and one other player will also drop to the bench.
Allan Saint-Maximin has been in great form and Newcastle’s best player in both games after restart but I can see him amongst the subs.
At his previous five clubs on permanent / loan deals (St Etienne, Hannover, Bastia, Monaco and Nice), ASM has a history of picking up injuries (thigh muscle strain, back, hamstring, knee ligament) and with his all action playing style that may well always be the case, he will need to be looked after.
I think that trying to ensure Newcastle stay in the game and bring on ASM as an impact sub on 60 minutes or so, could be far more effective than risking him from the start.
Gayle looked sharp (and scored!) off the bench on Wednesday, so I think he will get a chance through the middle and Joelinton moving to the left.
I also see Bentaleb coming in alongside Shelvey in the middle, with Schar the third centre-back.
So this is how I predict Steve Bruce’s Newcastle team v Manchester City will look and a suggested formation:
Whatever team Steve Bruce puts out, here’s hoping NUFC can upset the odds against the favourites to win the FA Cup.