Newcastle United find themselves without a victory in the Premier League after three games of the new season. Their opponents for their fourth match? Manchester City.
The Magpies face the daunting task of trying to pick up their first three points of the campaign at the Etihad Stadium against Pep Guardiola’s champions.
Manager Rafael Benitez must decide whether to stick with the 4-4-2 formation he adopted in the Carabao Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest on Wednesday, or revert to the five-man defence that almost thwarted Chelsea last weekend.
Benitez must ring the changes from the Forest game. Not only was the result poor, but the tactics used in that game would spell disaster against City. The Spaniard must continue with the tactical approach he employed against Chelsea, despite the criticism. Six changes should be made.
The goalkeeper and the back five picks itself. Benitez isn’t overrun by defensive talent at present, and captain Jamaal Lascelles has only just begun training again after injury. He should be on the bench at best, while Fabian Schar, Federico Fernandez and Ciaran Clark, who performed admirably against the Blues last week, continue.
In midfield, Benitez cannot afford to indulge flair players Kenedy and Christian Atsu in this game. Both wingers played against Forest, and the manager cannot afford tired legs or unwilling workers against the champions. More reliable hands Jacob Murphy and Matt Ritchie should get the nod instead.
Jonjo Shelvey remains out injured, so Ki Sung-yueng and Mohamed Diame will continue in central midfield. Up front, Joselu must be rewarded for his early season efforts, with Salomon Rondon, on a reported £60k-a-week, ready off the bench.