Newcastle couldn’t play Manchester United at a worse time.
In the buildup to Christmas, the Red Devils were in turmoil. But since Jose Mourinho got the sack, they’ve been back to their best under the watchful eye of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Since the baby-faced assassin returned, Manchester Untied have won three games in a row, scoring 12 goals in the process.
So how on earth will Rafa Benitez go about getting a result against a resurgent side?
Defend, defend, defend
In recent months, Newcastle have opted for five at the back. This surely won’t change against Manchester United.
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However, Benitez will need to make one change to his defence following an injury to Federico Fernandez. The Argentine had to come off at half time against Watford, and is a huge doubt to face Manchester United.
Ciaran Clark has an outside chance of returning, but the man that will likely replace Fernandez is Fabian Schar. The Swiss centre-half has endeared himself to the Toon Army, but Fernandez will be a huge loss nonetheless.
Stick with Hayden
It all seemed to go wrong when Isaac Hayden came off against Watford.
The want-away midfielder arguably put in his best performance of the season alongside Mo Diame, with Hayden enjoying a run in the team due to Ki Sung-yueng’s absence.
Jonjo Shelvey replaced Hayden for the final 11 minutes, and was partially to blame for the Watford equaliser. Abdoulaye Doucoure crept in behind the former England international to head home and snatch away a victory from Newcastle.
Despite Shelvey’s talents on the ball, Benitez must stick with Hayden in the middle, as his energy will be key to breaking up Manchester United’s attacks.
No Kenedy return
Last time the pair met, Kenedy got his first goal of the season. He put Newcastle 1-0 up, only for the Magpies to end up losing 3-2.
For the trip to Watford, Kenedy was left at home, which came as a huge surprise. While he should return to the bench on Wednesday night, there’s no way he should be a starter.
Christian Atsu is continuing his good form, while Ayoze Perez is much more reliable than the Brazilian.
Predicted lineup to face Manchester United: Dubravka; Schar, Lascelles, Dummett; Yedlin, Diame, Hayden, Ritchie; Atsu, Perez, Rondon