After a very promising couple of results seemed to suggest things were heading in the right direction for Newcastle, a dismal defeat to Southampton just before the international break delivered a damaging blow.
Steve Bruce’s side welcome Chelsea on Saturday, with the Blues’ upturn in form seeing them come into title contention. With the Magpies also suffering from numerous injury doubts and concerns, the Premier League clash looks like a tall order.
With the couple of weeks to try and potentially change things up, Bruce may spring a surprise or two to just shake it up in terms of tactics and personnel, and with that in mind, below is a look at just how the Magpies could line up.
In goal, Karl Darlow will continue to deputise in Martin Dubravka’s absence, although the Slovakia international is set to be approaching a potential return to first-team training sometime soon.
The first major call Bruce may want to make is the kind of system he uses. Recent weeks have seen him use the five-at-the-back to try and offer a better defensive balance, but he could show a bit more attacking intent by reverting to a more traditional back four on Saturday.
That could see Fabian Schar be the man to drop out, with Javier Manquillo coming in to give Bruce a genuine right-back option. In midfield, Jeff Hendrick’s poor form surely has to see him make way, with Isaac Hayden waiting in the wings to partner Sean Longstaff in the engine room.
Further forward, Miguel Almiron’s travelling for Paraguay whilst on international duty may see him get a breather, and his agent’s comments won’t have helped his cause either.
And having been deployed as a right wing-back, Jacob Murphy must surely get the chance to operate further forward, whilst if Callum Wilson can pass any late fitness checks, Bruce will be keen to see him start too.
Predicted XI: Darlow; Manquillo, Lascelles, Fernandez, Lewis; Murphy, Hayden, Longstaff, Saint-Maximin; Wilson, Joelinton.