Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, Manchester City are heading to St James’ Park.

It’s been another bleak few days for the Magpies. The transfer debacle took another incredible turn on Friday night when the Jordan Lukaku deal fell through.

The mood went from bad to worse on Saturday with an appalling performance in the FA Cup against Watford.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

And with the clock ticking on the transfer window, Rafa Benitez must switch his attentions to welcoming Manchester City to the North East. But how will he line up?

Benitez now knows his best back three

Against Cardiff, Benitez chose Jamaal Lascelles, Fabian Schar and Florian Lejeune to start at centre-back. This trio worked brilliantly, and must start against the Champions.

While they’ll have a harder job than they did against the Bluebirds, this threesome is surely our most solid. On top of that, Schar’s ability with the ball will hopefully give us a threat on the counter.

Longstaff to continue in the middle

Ahead of the game, Benitez confirmed that Mo Diame, Jonjo Shelvey and Ki Sung-yueng are all ruled out due to injury.

(Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United)

That means that Sean Longstaff will have to continue in centre-midfield, alongside Isaac Hayden. This will be the youngster’s toughest task, as he continues his baptism of fire.

He’s coped well so far, but coming up against Manchester City’s midfield is a different prospect entirely.

No change in attack after Cardiff

The Fringe players who started against Watford in the cup didn’t take their chance. This means that Benitez will have to go with the same three attackers that started the previous league game.

Ayoze Perez played much better and deserved his goal, while Christian Atsu will be hoping to improve after a disappointing showing against Cardiff.

(Photo by  OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

With Joselu out injured, Salomon Rondon will start up front. The on-loan striker played well at the Etihad, and we will need another strong performance from our talisman if we’re to get an unlikely result.

Predicted starting XI: Dubravka; Schar, Lascelles, Lejeune; Yedlin, Hayden, Longstaff, Ritchie; Perez, Atsu, Rondon.

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