Florian Lejeune had a disaster against Crystal Palace.
The French defender came so close to scoring, but ended the game on a stretcher. After suffering another horrific knee injury, his season is over.
Lejeune had been sensational since making a remarkable comeback from his first knee injury. With him in the side, we looked a lot more comfortable playing with three centre-backs.
But between now and the end of the season, we must persist with five at the back.
Does Lejeune’s injury force Benitez’s hand?
Three at the back has got the best out of Fabian Schar. The Swiss defender looks so composed, and his passing range makes him a real threat. Without him, the system doesn’t really work.
MORE NEWCASTLE STORIES
While Benitez might be tempted to go back to four in defence with one of his centre-backs now ruled out, Schar’s form earlier in the season means this can’t happen.
When playing in a centre-back pair, Schar has looked all over the place. Just go back to the West Ham game at home. He was alongside Federico Fernandez, and it was probably our worst defensive performance of the season.
Schar just can’t be trusted to play in a back four. With three centre-backs, his flaws can be covered up.
Had it been Schar who was ruled out, you could make a strong claim for going back to four in defence. But with no obvious partner for Jamaal Lascelles, Benitez must persist.