The three major selection dilemmas facing Graeme Jones ahead of Chelsea’s visit to Newcastle on Saturday
Newcastle host Chelsea on Saturday and interim boss Graeme Jones will have a few selection headaches ahead of the clash.
Jones, in just his second game in charge of Newcastle United, could hardly have a tougher task as Thomas Tuchel brings the reigning European Champions to St James’s Park.
Jones will be hoping that, against all odds, he can secure his side’s first win of the season, however, he will have a couple of selection dilemmas to contend with ahead of Saturday’s game.
Here, we take a look at three selection dilemmas facing Jones ahead of the visit of Chelsea:
Darlow or Dubravka?
Newcastle’s nine Premier League games to date have seen them ship 20 goals and a clean-sheet in the league still eludes them.
It’s hard to argue that either Karl Darlow or Freddie Woodman, who started the season as no.1, have done very much wrong whilst in goal this season, however, their goals conceded statistics don’t paint a pretty picture.
Martin Dubravka is back in training as he slowly edges back into the picture for a return to the first-team - could this come against Chelsea?
Whilst throwing someone who has played no football since June may seem like a big risk, it is clear that Newcastle are a better defensive outfit when the Slovakian is in net.
Saturday may be slightly too early for Dubravka, however, even if there is a small suggestion that he could feature against Chelsea, this is surely something that Jones will be considering.
Against Crystal Palace, Newcastle set up in a 5-3-2 formation with Emil Krafth, Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark in the middle of the defence.
However, the trio often struggled with the physicality of Christian Benteke and were limited in their ability to bring the ball out of defence and start attacks from the back.
This is where Federico Fernandez and Fabian Schar excel and could provide Jones with a selection headache.
Chelsea will certainly pose a great threat to the Newcastle defence on Saturday and with a shaky performance against Palace fresh in memory, there may be a change or two to make in defence.
There have been two main criticisms of Newcastle’s midfield this season - their lack of legs and their poor playmaking options.
Jonjo Shelvey arguably solves that second problem, however, his inclusion usually only intensifies the short-comings of the first.
Miguel Almiron will add legs to the midfield but would be playing out of position if selected.
Joe Willock adds energy as well, however, following the revelation that he has been struggling with a toe-injury and playing through injections, his fitness may be a concern.
Jones needs to get his midfield line-up correct on Saturday because they will be facing-off against fearsome opponents.
Mason Mount showed his class last week through scoring a hat-trick, N’Golo Kante will be back, Jorginho, Saul Niguez, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and the list goes on, Chelsea have an embarrassment of riches in their midfield, and this is where Saturday’s game will be won or lost.
It’s going to be difficult, but if Newcastle are going to get anything out of the game, they must somehow control the middle of the park and not allow the Chelsea midfield to overrun them.