Steve Bruce takes his Newcastle United side to Chelsea on Monday night facing a mammoth selection headache after losing three starting players to injuries last time out.
Top-scorer Callum Wilson, centre-half Fabian Schar and right-back Javier Manquillo all sustained long-term injuries in the Toon’s 3-2 win over Southampton, a game which also saw midfielder Jeff Hendrick shown two yellow cards.
The Republic of Ireland international will now be suspended for the Magpies’ trip to Stamford Bridge, forcing Bruce into a change in the engine room having started Hendrick in United’s last five Premier League games.
So, with plenty of change on the horizon in south west London, here’s a potential line-up Newcastle could field in search of back-to-back wins for the first time since mid-December…
Allan Saint-Maximin made his first start since testing positive for coronavirus in Newcastle’s 3-2 win over Southampton and will be expected to open the action against Chelsea, having provided the assist for two of United’s goals.
Bruce faces a headache over who replaces Wilson after the 10-goal top-scorer sustained a deep hamstring tear , with Dwight Gayle, Andy Carroll and Joelinton each only scoring once in the Premier League this season.
Gayle, for us, is the most likely to stand in despite not opening a top-flight fixture this term, as the £40,000-per-week forward – set to be a free agent in the summer – netted four times during the 2019/20 campaign, more than Joelinton (2) and Carroll (0) combined.
Schar was required to have surgery after sustaining knee ligament damage against the Saints, and will be replaced in the backline by Ciaran Clark with the £4.5m-rated centre-half now back available for selection.
Bruce had fielded Isaac Hayden in defence last time out to cover for Clark’s absence after his wife went into labour, though he should be able to return the midfielder to the engine room to replace Hendrick having received positive news on skipper Jamaal Lascelles and Federico Fernandez.
“It’s a long time before Monday but Clark, definitely [is available]. We’re hoping, fingers crossed, with Jamaal and Fede,” Bruce said on Thursday. “Two of them are touch and go, but Ciaran Clark will definitely be okay.”
Emil Krafth will be in line to make only his fifth start of the league season after Manquillo sustained ankle ligament damage against Southampton, an injury which could keep the Spaniard on the sidelines for the next two months, after Newcastle sold DeAndre Yedlin to Galatasaray on Deadline Day.
Except for replacing the suspended Hendrick, Bruce will be expected to name an unchanged midfield consisting of Jonjo Shelvey and Joe Willock sitting behind Miguel Almiron.
Almiron scored a brace against Southampton to become Newcastle’s second-best scorer this term with four goals, while Willock broke the deadlock on his debut after joining on loan from Arsenal for the remainder of the season.
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