The THREE key issues facing Newcastle United and Steve Bruce ahead of visit of Premier League champions Man City
Newcastle United face the unenviable task of hosting newly-crowned Premier League champions Man City at St James’ Park on Friday evening – it’s a good job the Magpies’ top flight status is no longer dependent on a result.
Head coach Steve Bruce has talked in recent weeks of United beating their points tally of 44 from the 2019/20 Premier League campaign – and a point against Pep Guardiola’s men would go some way to boosting that cause.
Without even considering the opposition – even if the Citizens name a much-changed side with the Champions League on their mind, they’re probably strong enough to beat most top flight sides – United have some selection thoughts of their own to contend with.
Here’s a look at three key issues Steve Bruce must consider ahead of the weekend clash against arguably the best side in European club football.
How to replace Callum Wilson
The impossible task, isn’t it? Put simply, United don’t have a like-for-like for their 12-goal talisman.
But they do have options, how credible is up for debate.
There has been some talk of maybe giving Dwight Gayle and end-of-season run of games, with the hope he can rekindle his close to last season.
The more likely option is for Joelinton to come back in, especially given the big Brazilian can probably count himself unfortunate to lose his place in the side, after a run of games that could be argued were his best in black and white in terms of consistency.
The other option, and one less likely, would be a United swansong for Andy Carroll. It is thought the frontman will get minutes ahead of an increasingly likely summer exit but they may well come off the bench, where he has sat for much of the season despite being ‘fit’.
Stick or twist defensively
Emil Krafth has done little to convince at either full-back or as a centre-half when called upon since his arrival two years ago. However, he played his part in a solid enough defensive show, bar the last 15 minutes, at Leicester City last weekend.
And while Ciaran Clark is the more gifted, natural defender, the Swede did add a little more balance to the backline. Clark and Federico Fernandez were shifted slightly out of position in the three with Paul Dummett playing on the left. With Krafth in, it allowed Fernandez to shuffle inside – and he looked a whole lot more comfortable for doing it.
Is a return for the more talented Clark on the cards or will Bruce go with the status quo? It is a tough call but it’s hard to see him shuffling a winning team around too much.
Miguel Almiron, you could say, has looked more out of form that Sean Longstaff, who is said to have been understandably disappointed by Bruce’s call to drop him from the side.
Could be return in place of the Paraguayan? It would be a controversial call but may be one Bruce looks at at this week, especially with the emphasis likely to be on defence more than attack v City.
Two things are for certain, though – if fit, Bruce will pick skipper Jonjo Shelvey, irrespective of form, and Joe Willock is the first name on the teamsheet.