3 dilemmas for Rafa Benitez ahead of Newcastle's game against Brentford

Matt Ritchie
Matt Ritchie

Rafa Benitez is assessing his Newcastle United players ahead of Saturday's game against Brentford.

The last of those who were away on international duty are now back on Tyneside.

And United manager Benitez, invariably, will change a winning team.

Newcastle beat Rotherham United 1-0 before the international break thanks to a goal from Christian Atsu.

The result kept the club third in the Championship.

Atsu, however, is not certain of a start at St James's Park given the form of Matt Ritchie, who was, surprisingly, a substitute against Rotherham.

DeAndre Yedlin

DeAndre Yedlin

Here we look at three of Benitez's selection dilemmas:


Vurnon Anita returned to the starting XI against Rotherham after serving a three-game ban.

That decision was harsh on specialist right-back DeAndre Yedlin, who had performed well in the absence of Anita.

Christian Atsu

Christian Atsu

Benitez, however, likes Anita. A lot.

And the fact that Yedlin has made a transatlantic trip since Newcastle last played will be a factor in his decision.

The 23-year-old started both of the USA's games, and he may well feel Anita, a midfielder, will be fresher.

However, attack-minded Yedlin offers more going forward than Anita, and he will surely play a lot of games, especially at home, this season.

Ciaran Clark

Ciaran Clark


Ritchie was a surprise absentee from Newcastle's starting XI at the New York Stadium early this month.

After all, the winger, signed from Bournemouth, has been exceptional so far this season.

A tireless runner, Ritchie has brought energy and enthusiasm to position that Moussa Sissoko fitfully filled last season.

The 27-year-old has been a threat whenever he's had the ball at his feet, so he will be firmly in Benitez's thoughts for the Brentford game.

Atsu, however, scored a match-winning goal on his full debut against Rotherham, so Benitez has another dilemma.

Both players have been on international duty, so as ever, Benitez is likely to make a late, late decision based on what he sees in training tomorrow.


It's almost a month since Chancel Mbemba last kicked a ball in anger for United.

Mbemba hasn't featured since the home Championship defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, when Benitez was seen furiously gesturing at him from the dugout.

The 22-year-old was dropped, not rotated or rested, for the EFL Cup tie against Wolves a few days later.

In his absence, Ciaran Clark, signed from Aston Villa, has been outstanding for Newcastle.

Clark has been commanding and committed in central defence, and it would be a surprise if he didn't start again against Brentford.

Mbemba, having frustrated Benitez with his distribution against Wolves, may have a bit longer to wait for his next chance.