If Newcastle want to get out of the relegation zone this weekend, they must beat Cardiff.
The Magpies slipped into the bottom three last week, with results going against Rafa Benitez’s men. Our first opportunity to escape the bottom three was squandered, losing 2-1 to Chelsea.
However, we got back to winning ways midweek against Blackburn in the cup, which will hopefully bring back some confidence.
We are competing with Cardiff for a place in next season’s Premier League, and nothing but a win will do in front of an expectant St James’ Park crowd.
Lascelles fit to face Cardiff
In a comical few minutes, Jamaal Lascelles picked up an injury against Blackburn. The skipper came on at half time to replace Ciaran Clark, only to pull up moments after arriving.
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Florian Lejune started his first Premier League game of the season last week, and the Frenchman should retain his place in the side. That leaves one centre-back slot open, which should go to Fabian Schar.
If we are insisting on playing five at the back again, we need defenders who are strong on the ball. That’s exactly what Schar is, with the Swiss international excelling in midfield in the FA Cup.
Diame to return
Mo Diame has missed Newcastle’s last few games, limping off early in the second half against Manchester United. The midfielder has trained ahead of the game with Cardiff, and Benitez will hopefully bring him straight back into the starting XI.
He should partner Sean Longstaff, who has excelled. The youngster has to start ahead of Isaac Hayden, who simply hasn’t been good enough.
Meanwhile, Cal Roberts deserves a place on the bench for his efforts against Blackburn.
Relying on Rondon
Joselu scored against Blackburn, but didn’t really impress anyone with his performance.
That means that we’re relying on Salomon Rondon once again, with the Venezuelan becoming something of a talisman for Newcastle. Hopefully he can add to his tally against Cardiff and lift us out of the relegation zone.
Predicted lineup to face Cardiff: Dubravka; Schar, Lascelles, Lejeune; Yedlin, Diame, Longstaff, Ritchie; Perez, Atsu, Rondon.