Should Benitez rotate for Newcastle's trip to Watford?
Should Benitez rotate for Newcastle's trip to Watford?
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Should Benitez rotate for Newcastle's trip to Watford?

After a sensational run of form, the wheels have slightly fell off in recent weeks for Newcastle, who now face an interesting trip to Vicarage Road.

The Magpies had tasted success against Southampton, Huddersfield, Leicester and Arsenal, but came crashing back down to earth with humbling defeats at the hands of Everton and West Brom.

Rafa Benitez’s side haven’t looked their most resilient in their past two outings, and the Spaniard will demand an improved showing when his side head down south to face an equally misfiring Watford side.

In recent weeks, Benitez has been reluctant to change his side, instead sticking with a settled XI, but Saturday could be the chance for a few changes, with the Magpies looking particularly flat at home to West Brom. The back five will most likely not change, as it has been a key component of Newcastle’s good run of form, plus an injury to Ciaran Clark means the most likely player to come in isn’t available.

One man who should be hoping for a start is Mikel Merino. The Spanish midfielder was marvelled at the start of the campaign for his performances, but a back injury plus the resurgence of Jonjo Shelvey saw Merino slip down the pecking order and remain on the fringes, sometimes not even making the bench.

Diame’s form means he is almost untouchable in the Newcastle XI, so Shelvey could have to put his England ambitions on hold and make way for the midfielder who joined last summer from Borussia Dortmund.

There’s a distinct lack of squad depth at Newcastle, but Jacob Murphy could get a chance, potentially in place of Matt Ritchie, with Kenedy entering the final two games of his loan spell from Chelsea. Murphy hasn’t set the world alight in black and white, and Benitez probably needs to give him another chance in the final few weeks before making a decision on the former Norwich winger’s future over the summer.

There could be an argument for Joselu to come in for Dwight Gayle, but the £5 million striker has hardly endeared himself to the Newcastle faithful due to his lack of goals, so there won’t be too many tears back on Tyneside if Benitez doesn’t tweak his forward line.

With three games to go and another summer of potentially limited investment, Benitez must use the remaining fixtures to see what his squad players can offer him ahead of another difficult and testing season in the Premier League.