4 questions for Rafa Benitez ahead of Newcastle-Bournemouth

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez will face the media this afternoon ahead of Bournemouth's visit to St James's Park.

Newcastle United go into tomorrow's game on the back of Monday night's disappointing 1-0 defeat to Burnley.

Mikel Merino

Mikel Merino

Benitez was without injured midfielder Mikel Merino at Turf Moor.

READ MORE: Should Rafa Benitez recall Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic? A case for and against

The result saw the club drop down to ninth in the Premier League table.

Here are four key questions for Benitez at this afternoon's press conference:

Rafa Benitez and Simon Smith

Rafa Benitez and Simon Smith

1. How bad is Merino's injury?

Merino – who missed the Burnley game with a back injury – isn't expected to be fit to face Bournemouth.

The 21-year-old, signed on a permanent deal from Borussia Dortmund last month, was sent to see a specialist this week.

And United manager Benitez will give an update on Merino's fitness at his pre-match media call.

Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez

Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez

The Bournemouth game is followed by a two-week international break, and Merino is also doubtful for Spain's Under-21s, who have European Championship qualifiers against Iceland and Slovakia.

Spain's squad will be announced later today.

2. Are you considering making a change up front?

Joselu, signed from Stoke City in the summer for £5million, has started the club's last eight Premier League games.

Newcastle took 14 points from those fixtures.

But there have been some calls for Aleksandar Mitrovic – who has only played 30 minutes of league football this season, and whose future looks to lie away from St James's Park – to be handed his first top-flight start.

Dwight Gayle, last season's 23-goal league scorer, is another option for Benitez.

Joselu had a difficult night at Turf Moor, but he has scored two goals in his four home appearances for the club.

What is Benitez's view of his striking options? And does Mitrovic have a longer-term future on Tyneside?

3. Will Ayoze Perez pay a price for his mistake against Burnley?

Benitez defended Perez, his No 10, ahead of the club's visit to Turf Moor.

“I can read the comments and some people say this or that,” said Benitez. “He’s doing well. He’s a clever player. He has good movement."

Perez, however, lost possession for Burnley's winner, scored by Jeff Hendrick.

And there has been more criticism from fans since the game.

Is Benitez considering making a change? And how has Perez reacted to his error?

4. What do you think of the threat posed by Bournemouth?

Bournemouth, managed by 39-year-old Eddie Howe, are second-bottom in the Premier League.

The team, now in its third season in the Premier League, has struggled to score goals this season – they have only netted times – and to make matters worse, Benik Afobe and Josh King are facing late fitness tests.

Former Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe could start up front against Newcastle.