With just two defeats in nine Premier League matches – both to Manchester City – Newcastle are finally hitting form again.

Partnerships are forming all over the pitch for Rafa Benitez’s men, with Jamaal Lascelles and Florian Lejeune impressing at the back against Manchester United while DeAndre Yedlin and Matt Ritchie, on the right, and Paul Dummett and Kenedy, on the left, also starred.

But perhaps the key to this recent success has been the way Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame have worked in tandem.

The two had previously struggled for form this term, but they dominated the Red Devils’ midfield after performing well against Crystal Palace too.

Mikel Merino, excellent in the early part of the season, is now stuck on the bench and Rafa has no reason not to stick with both Shelvey and Diame for the foreseeable future.

And so Rafa may now be wondering what the future holds for Merino at St James’ Park.

Interest from Athletic Bilbao in the midfielder was heavily reported in January, but the Newcastle manager then insisted he wanted to keep the former Borussia Dortmund man.

Shelvey and Diame have since kicked on, though, and Merino could command a huge fee given his age and clear potential. Mike Ashley is hardly renowned for encouraging managers to keep valuable long stars that could be moved on at a big profit either.

Merino must feel he deserves first-team football and he may well be right, so Rafa has a big call to make in the coming months as he attempts to juggle the Spaniard’s happiness and Newcastle’s survival.

The club’s first piece of transfer business could easily be decided before the summer is here.

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