Former player Aleksandar Mitrovic is set to return to St James’ Park as Newcastle take on Fulham.
The Serbian is much improved since leaving Newcastle, scoring seven league goals so far this season. Rafa Benitez’s back-line will need to be ready for a battle to ensure their former team-mate doesn’t have the last laugh.
Newcastle must beat Fulham, because they face a very tough run of fixtures after the game on Saturday, starting with Liverpool on Boxing Day.
Stick with the three centre-backs
Against Huddersfield, Newcastle’s centre-backs were sensational.
So as they prepare to face a tricky Fulham attack, why change a winning formula? Ciaran Clark was arguably the man of the match against the Terriers, but will miss the game after being ruled out by Benitez.
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However, Benitez did confirm that Federico Fernandez is ‘fine’, so he should come back into the team in place of the injured Clark. Another option is playing Paul Dummett as the left centre-back, but you’d imagine Fernandez will get the nod over him.
No Fulham return for Yedlin
DeAndre Yedlin missed the last game due to suspension, and it’s safe to say he was not missed.
Javi Manquillo took his place, and the Spaniard was surprisingly brilliant. He even had a role offensively, setting up the winner. It would be harsh for Manquillo to lose his place after such a performance.
Kenedy out, Ritchie in?
Kenedy was deployed as the left wing-back against Huddersfield, but didn’t finish the game there. He was replaced late on by Dummett, as Newcastle defended their lead.
However, it’s Matt Ritchie who should start against Fulham. While Kenedy is talented, he isn’t reliable. And while Dummett is solid at the back, he can’t get up the line as well as Ritchie.
Therefore, the Scotland international should start as wing-back, having been dropped for the Huddersfield game.
No changes up top
Newcastle’s forward players finally seem to be clicking.
Salomon Rondon is on a great run of form, while Ayoze Perez is quietly going about his business.
One man who can’t be dropped is Christian Atsu. The Ghanaian has been in sublime form in recent games, and needs to keep up the momentum.
Predicted Newcastle lineup to face Fulham: Dubravka; Schar, Lascelles, Fernandez; Manquillo, Ki, Diame, Ritchie; Atsu, Perez, Rondon.