Newcastle will be without captain Jamaal Lascelles for Saturday’s trip to Brighton.
Speaking ahead of the game, Rafa Benitez confirmed that the defender is unavailable for selection due to illness.
“We have lost Lejeune and Almirón (to injury). We have also lost Lascelles, who has had a stomach illness all week,” Benitez said at his pre-match press conference.
The loss of Lascelles is certainly a blow, but it isn’t as big a worry with our Premier League safety secured.
But with key players out of action, it shows just how important it was to secure survival early. If we had to go to Brighton needing a result, the prospect of doing so without Florian Lejeune, Miguel Almiron and Lascelles would certainly be daunting.
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The captain’s absence means the armband will likely go to Paul Dummett, but there is still a space in defence that needs to be filled.
Who replaces Lascelles?
The obvious choice to take his place is Federico Fernandez. We saw the Argentinian against Southampton, coming on for the injured Fabian Schar.
Schar has trained ahead of the game, so should be fit to continue as the right-sided centre-back.
Fernandez is well equipped to play as the central defender, having done so on multiple occasions this season. He’s a leader and a warrior, and was one of our best players earlier in the season.
Last time Fernandez started was away to Bournemouth where he struggled, but this time he’ll come up against a much less potent attack. For reference, Brighton haven’t scored a goal since their FA Cup quarter-final clash with Millwall.