Leeds United will be hoping to pick up their first win of the Premier League season when they make the trip to St James’ Park to face Newcastle on Friday night.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side tasted defeat in their last game when Pascal Struijk’s red card overshadowed a 3-0 loss against Liverpool, and the Dutchman will be one of a few key absentees for tonight’s fixture.
The Leeds manager has a major headache in terms of how he solves things at the back, and with that in mind, below is a look at how the Whites might line up when they travel to Tyneside to take on Newcastle.
In goal, Illan Meslier will be hoping to keep his first clean sheet of the season in the top-flight, having already let in six goals in the club’s opening three games.
Charlie Cresswell, who was on the bench against the Reds last weekend, may hope to finally get his Premier League chance in the first-team, but Bielsa may opt to stick with his more experienced campaigners.
That could see a little reshuffle at the back, with Luke Ayling moving centrally to partner club captain Liam Cooper, and Stuart Dallas dropping into right-back.
The latter being used as part of the back four opens up a space in midfield, and that could see a return to the starting line-up for Mateusz Klich.
Here on Football FanCast, we’ve called on Bielsa to drop Rodrigo from tonight’s clash against the Magpies, and if the Leeds boss feels the same, this could well be his chance to experiment with Raphinha as the team’s number 10.
The Athletic’s Phil Hay recently claimed that change in position is something on Bielsa’s mind, saying: “We’ll wait to see whether or not there’s any effort made to convert somebody like Raphinha into a 10. From what I can gather, that is on Bielsa’s mind, but I think it would take a heck of a lot of coaching and I think it would be a longer-term process. Raphinha doesn’t instantly look to me like a Bielsa player in that two behind Patrick Bamford.
“It always feels like a little bit closer to an 8 than it is to an out-and-out number 10, who plays solely as a 10, but perhaps it can be done, and I mean, Raphinha, his range of skills are exceptional.”
If Raphinha does move into that Rodrigo role, that could open the door for Dan James to make his full debut for the club following his move from Manchester United on transfer deadline day.
Predicted XI: Meslier; Dallas, Ayling, Cooper, Firpo; James, Klich, Phillips, Raphinha, Harrison; Bamford.