Newcastle United continue their hectic festive schedule by welcoming Leeds United to St James’ Park this afternoon, with the Magpies heading into the match on a run of six successive Premier League victories.
The highly-flying outfit – who are currently third in the table – romped to a 3-0 win over Leicester City in their most recent outing, having comfortably seen off the Foxes following what was a rampant opening at the King Power Stadium.
Eddie Howe’s side had seemingly put the game to bed inside seven minutes as goals from Chris Wood and Miguel Almiron handed the visitors a handsome, early advantage, before the resurgent Joelinton headed home just after the half hour mark to wrap up the points.
That ruthless victory appears to have eased any potential fears over whether the World Cup break would derail the northeast side’s momentum, with the Tynesiders having seemingly picked up where they left off in November.
Howe and co will likely be hoping to continue that momentum against a struggling Leeds side later today, with the Yorkshire side currently in the relegation fight after losing their last three top-flight games.
While the Newcastle boss could easily name an unchanged side for that upcoming encounter, one alteration that the 44-year-old may look to make is in midfield, with academy graduate Sean Longstaff one figure who could well make way.
The 25-year-old has been something of an “unsung hero” for the club in recent times – according to pundit Tam McManus – although the £50k-per-week man was arguably one of the poorer performers on Boxing Day.
That triumph over the Foxes saw the Englishman struggle somewhat defensively as he won just two of his seven total duels on the day, having made just one tackle in his 89-minute outing.
The 6 foot 1 machine was particularly poor in possession as he lost the ball on 13 occasions, ensuring that he achieved a dismal pass accuracy rate of just 71% from his 36 touches, before being withdrawn in the closing stages.
The local lad had looked ‘less assured’ when he had been on the ball against Brendan Rodgers’ men – according to 90min’s Grey Whitebloom – despite having ‘energetically led Newcastle’s press’ from his midfield berth.
Unsurprisingly, that under-par performance saw Longstaff record a match rating of just 6.4, as per Sofascore, with that the worst rating of any of Newcastle’s starting players.
As such, it could well prove an ideal time for Howe to bring the playmaker out of the firing line for today’s meeting, with the former Bournemouth boss having the option of bringing Joelinton back into the midfield and re-instating Allan Saint-Maximin on the flanks.
Whatever the case, despite having started the last nine league games, it could well be time that Longstaff is ruthlessly ditched from the side.