Steve Bruce is expected to have a handful of first-choice players back available for selection when Liverpool visit St. James’ Park on Wednesday night after injuries and coronavirus tore through the Newcastle United first-team.
The Toon are still awaiting the return of Allan Saint-Maximin with the star forward still a few weeks away after testing positive for Covid-19, while Jamaal Lascelles is edging closer to fitness after returning to training.
Injury will deprive Bruce of Ryan Fraser at home to Jurgen Klopp’s visiting Reds after being ruled out into the New Year with a groin strain, but has better news on Callum Wilson and Jonjo Shelvey with the duo in line to face the champions.
So, with changes on the cards from the side which lost 2-0 to Manchester City on Boxing Day, here’s a potential XI Bruce could favour at home to Liverpool on Wednesday night…
Bruce is unlikely to favour wholesale changes so will be expected to retain Karl Darlow, Ciaran Clark, Federico Fernandez, Jacob Murphy and Isaac Hayden from the side which faced Pep Guardiola’s Citizens last time out.
DeAndre Yedlin and Matt Ritchie may be replaced at full-back by 26-year-old Javier Manquillo, who Alex Bruce lauds as a “very impressive” defender, pictured back in group training ahead of Liverpool’s visit to Tyneside after returning to the bench at the Etihad.
Manquillo had missed Newcastle’s previous three Premier League fixtures after proving himself as Bruce’s favoured right-back with five starts in six appearances this season, while Jamal Lewis has opened 11 of his 13 top-flight outings at left-back since joining from Norwich City in the summer.
Bruce is aware that over-exerting Fabian Schar could see the Swiss centre-half face a period on the sidelines after his surprise return at Manchester City, having seen the impact coronavirus had on Fernandez, but will likely retain the 29-year-old with Lascelles still out and impressing away to the Sky Blues.
Miguel Almiron struggled to leave a positive impression on proceedings against Manchester City and is at risk of the axe, allowing Bruce to retain Matt Ritchie in the starting line-up for his defensive prowess.
Matty Longstaff, another star of the show at the Etihad, is also likely to miss out with Shelvey returning to partner Hayden in the engine room after overcoming the chronic fatigue suffered due to the on-going effects of his hernia surgery.
Wilson also sat out the Manchester City meeting after sustaining an ankle injury during the Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat to Brentford, but has returned to fitness and should replace the underperforming Joelinton in attack.