Steve Bruce has confirmed Newcastle United are facing a string of injuries ahead of their trip to Aston Villa on Saturday night.
Newcastle have further only manged to score one goal in their last seven fixtures, coming in a 2-1 defeat at home to Leicester City, with top-scorer Callum Wilson enduring his longest drought in front of the net since moving to St. James’ Park for £20m in the previous window.
So, with Bruce likely to be forced into changes from the XI which lost 3-0 at Arsenal on Monday night, here’s a potential line-up the Magpies could name against Aston Villa…
Goalkeeper Karl Darlow once again proved a rare positive for Newcastle as the Toon were beaten at the Emirates earlier this week, and will expect to retain his place in goal after opening all 18 Premier League fixtures played to date.
But Bruce may be forced into altering the back-four which started in north London, with the Magpies boss confirming doubt over the fitness of centre-backs Fabian Schar and Ciaran Clark alongside the absence of Federico Fernandez.
“Fernandez won’t be available,” Bruce said. “Schar might be [fit]. Ciaran Clark is a doubt. Fernandez has hamstring and muscle problems, and is still going to be a while off.”
Newcastle’s wealth of issues at the back may force Bruce into utilising Isaac Hayden at centre-back once again, having called on the midfielder to drop into defence for five of his 16 appearances across all competitions this season.
Emil Krafth may also lose his place in the Newcastle backline though, rather than through injury, the Sweden international – courted by Istanbul Basaksehir – will fall out of the XI for DeAndre Yedlin through his underwhelming form.
As will Jonjo Shelvey, who Chronicle Live claim went missing at Arsenal after failing to offer a threat at either end of the pitch, allowing for Matty Longstaff to be joined in the engine room by his brother, Sean, against Villa.
Joelinton was another to badly let Bruce down at Arsenal on Monday night and will count himself fortunate if he is not axed, with Matt Ritchie no doubt pushing for minutes in his natural wide-midfield role after offering more key passes per game (1.6) than any other Newcastle player in the Premier League this season.
Bruce will be expected to retain a frontline pairing of Callum Wilson and Andy Carroll against Aston Villa, with the United boss yet confirming Dwight Gayle has overcome the illness that ruled him out of the Gunners encounter.
“Gayle has been unwell, but his Covid tests were negative,” he noted.
AND in other news, Newcastle face a fight to sign a £7m-rated target who “destroys” danger.