Steve Bruce is facing a defensive injury crisis at Newcastle United as he prepares to host Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday.
The Toon are looking to claim a first win at St. James’ Park in 2021 having last claimed all three points on home soil against West Bromwich Albion, when Dwight Gayle headed in an 82nd-minute winner on December 12.
United have lost three of the following five on Tyneside following consecutive defeats to Leicester City, Leeds United and Crystal Palace since the turn of the year, but have won each of their past three meetings with the Saints played in the North East.
So, as Bruce aims to avoid two defeats at St. James’ Park in the space of four days, here’s a potential line-up the Magpies could field against Southampton as they deal with a raft of injury concerns…
Bruce has confirmed that Newcastle will be without captain Jamaal Lascelles on Saturday due to a hamstring injury, while Federico Fernandez will be missing as he still continues to feel the effects caused by Covid-19.
Jamal Lewis is also a doubt with a hamstring injury and could be joined on the sidelines by Paul Dummett, potentially leaving the £8.5m-rated Matt Ritchie as United’s only fit and available option for the left-back spot.
Ciaran Clark could play beside Fabian Schar in the core of the Toon defence but his situation is uncertain after his partner went into labour, which may force Bruce into fielding Isaac Hayden in front of Karl Darlow’s net if the Republic of Ireland international cannot feature.
Should Hayden not be needed in defence, the Arsenal product will be expected to line up beside Jonjo Shelvey in the engine room.
Bruce should be expected to axe Jeff Hendrick after fans were left irate by his midweek performance in defeat to Crystal Palace, yet his removal may not create an opening for Deadline Day signing Joe Willock to make his Newcastle debut after joining on loan.
Ryan Fraser, Miguel Almiron and Callum Wilson all delivered promising performances against the Eagles on Tuesday night, so will feel hard done by to fall out of the side with Bruce hinting at a starting role for Allan Saint-Maximin.
“Well, we obviously hope so,” Bruce said, via quotes by Chronicle Live, when asked Saint-Maximin would start against Southampton on Saturday. “We’ll keep protecting him.
“That’s another half an hour now [against Crystal Palace], so he’s had probably four half-hours. He’s getting his fitness levels back up – it’s always that difficult one, but he’s starting to show signs that he’s ready to start.”
Fraser provided a game-high seven key passes against Roy Hodgson’s Eagles in midweek, almost half of Newcastle’s tally of 15 as a side and more than double the amount of the next-most creative player in Crystal Palace’s Eberechi Eze (3), per WhoScored.
Wilson also took a joint game-high four shots on Tuesday night, and may count himself unlucky to have not built on his 10-goal haul for the Premier League campaign after assisting Jonjo Shelvey in the second minute.