Date: 11th January 2019 at 4:41pm
Written by:

OPINION

Newcastle United will likely be forced to rely on youngster Sean Longstaff against one of the best teams in the Premier League when they take on Chelsea on Saturday.

That’s an awfully tough situation for the Magpies to be in when you consider that Rafael Benitez’s side struggle to win games even when all their best players are fully fit.

The Chronicle reported on Friday that Jonjo Shelvey will miss Saturday’s game, while his fellow midfielder Mohamed Diame is also thought to be a doubt for a game. That is in addition to missing central midfielder Ki Sung-yueng who is away on international duty.

That means that Isaac Hayden and Longstaff are the only real options to start in the middle for the park at Stamford Bridge.

Hayden, while not being a particularly impressive performer, does have some Premier League experience. Longstaff, though, is essentially a rookie at this level. He has just one Premier League appearance for Benitez’s side this season.

It’s vital that the 21-year-old steps up and delivers a big performance on Saturday if the Magpies are to have any chance of coming away from London with anything but their tails between their legs.

Longstaff has flashed huge potential in his loan spells with Kilmarnock and particularly Blackpool, but this is going to be a huge step up for the youngster.

No manager wants to be forced to throw a novice midfielder in against the likes of N’Golo Kante and Jorginho, but that is the situation that likely faces Benitez on Saturday.

The pressure on Longstaff will be immense, and it is vital that he produces the finest performance of his young career in tricky circumstances at Stamford Bridge.