Steve Bruce will be without Paul Dummett, Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez when Newcastle United host Leeds United on Tuesday night.
The Toon are searching for a first win since beating West Bromwich Albion 2-1 at St. James’ Park last month, after losing eight of their last 10 fixtures to be eliminated from the Carabao Cup, FA Cup and be dragged back into the Premier League relegation fight.
Pressure is mounting on Bruce with every game that the Toon’s winless run continues, and that has sparked rumours in The Sun that former AFC Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe is being lined up to replace the under-fire 60-year-old.
So, as Bruce seeks to stop the rot with a side that he admits is low on confidence, here’s a potential line-up the Magpies could field against Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites on Tuesday night…
Goalkeeper Karl Darlow was once again one of the few player who could keep their head held high after Saturday’s sorry 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa, and he faces yet another challenging fixture against Leeds with Bruce’s defensive miseries deepening.
Dummett, Clark and Fernandez were all absent from Saturday’s defeat to Dean Smith’s side and they will still be unavailable against Leeds, per Chronicle Live, while DeAndre Yedlin also continues to be missing due to issues with the right-back’s visa.
Bruce will now have to mull over sticking with the same five-man backline that faced Villa in Jamal Lewis, Fabian Schar, Jamaal Lascelles, Isaac Hayden and Javier Manquillo. Though the Toon boss may be expected to bench Schar, after the Swiss centre-half made a host of errors at Villa Park beyond his sliced clearance that led to Ollie Watkins opening the scoring.
Jonjo Shelvey will be expected to face Bruce’s axe after lacking purpose in the engine room against Villa, with a lethargic and disinterested display indicative of how Newcastle performed as a team in their 10th defeat in 19 Premier League games.
Jeff Hendrick also proved to be a complete dud once again with an anonymous showing, having brought effectively nothing to the side, and he must be dropped to afford the Longstaff brothers, Sean and Matty, a recall after being overlooked in recent weeks.
Bruce may decide to hand Allan Saint-Maximin a first start since November against Leeds after the Frenchman – who has vowed to “give everything” to help spark a turnaround – made his return from a lengthy spell out at Villa Park.
But Newcastle will likely favour being cautious with the 23-year-old to avoid Saint-Maximin burning out like Fernandez, and instead start £42,000-per-week winger Ryan Fraser after he momentarily showed glimpses of posing a threat against the Villans following his introduction from the bench.
Dwight Gayle also entered the action as a late substitute against Villa but will likely continue to wait for his first start of the season in any competition, with Bruce currently favouring a two-man frontline of Callum Wilson and Andy Carroll.
AND in other news, Steve Bruce must axe an £8m-rated total dud holding Newcastle back…