For the majority of the season, Steve Bruce hasn’t been able to pick his strongest starting XI.

Mainly because of injuries, the Toon boss has had to chop and change his side, with various players taking turns to impress.

At the start of the season, no one expected Ciaran Clark and Javi Manquillo to receive so much praise.

But do they make it into what we think is Bruce’s best starting XI when everyone is fit?

(Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

Formation

As it’s been used all season, we’ll continue with 3-4-3 or 5-4-1, which ever way you want to look at it. We’re much better with three centre-backs on the pitch, although it shouldn’t be an excuse for our inability to control a game.

The main issue we’ve had is creating chances, and that might come from the shape.

Ideally, the front three should be much closer together. That way they can play off each other rather than rely on individual moments of brilliance.

Goalkeeper

There’s no argument here – of course Martin Dubravka is our number one goalkeeper. He’s saved us so many times this season, and who knows where we’d be without him.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Centre-backs

With six impressive centre-backs available, this is a difficult decision. Do you go with the players who can sniff out danger time and time again, or the ones who are capable of bringing the ball out from defence and starting attacks from deep?

Well, why not both? We’ve decided to go with Fabian Schar, Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark.

Schar is brilliant in possession, and gives us something of a secret weapon with his range of passing.

Lascelles is the leader at the back, and has a bit more pace than Federico Fernandez.

(Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

The left-sided role goes to Clark, who beats out Florian Lejeune and Paul Dummett. Clark has been consistently brilliant this season, despite a lot of people writing him off. It would be unfair to leave him out.

Wing-backs

While they’ve only just arrived, Valentino Lazaro and Danny Rose are our best wing-back options.

 

DeAndre Yedlin and Matt Ritchie have done well at times, but they have obvious flaws in their game.

In contrast, Rose has played at the highest level for a long time. As for Lazaro, he looks composed in possession, which should help Bruce’s team keep the ball better and become a more attractive outfit.

Centre-midfield

The big debate here is who partners Jonjo Shelvey in the middle of the park.

(Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

Should it be Isaac Hayden or Nabil Bentaleb? Sadly for Sean Longstaff, he hasn’t done enough to be considered.

Bentaleb is only just getting to grips with life in Newcastle, but already looks like he could be a useful player.

While Hayden’s energy and attitude is sensational, Bentaleb has that extra quality on the ball. And that’s what we’ve been missing a lot of the time under Bruce.

The front three

With limited options, the front three picks itself: Allan Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almiron and Joelinton.

The two wide players are fan favourites, but Joelinton has received a lot of criticism this season.

But in fairness to the Brazilian, a couple of goals in the FA Cup has certainly boosted his confidence.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The trio cost a lot of money and should be offering a lot more. However, there is something there if they can start to operate as a unit.

As mentioned before, if they play closer together, things might start to improve.

Bruce’s best XI: Dubravka; Schar, Lascelles, Clark; Lazaro, Bentaleb, Shelvey, Rose; Almiron, Saint-Maximin, Joelinton.

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