Picking the Likely Newcastle Lineup to Face Tottenham in Saturday's Premier League Opener
A lot has been made of the transfers – or lack thereof – at both clubs, with Rafa Benitez publicly calling out the Newcastle board for the lack of funds made available to him. However, the transfer window is now closed, and Rafa will do what he does to get the best out of the players available to him.
Here’s how Newcastle are likely to line up:
1. GK – Martin Dubravka
Anyone other than the Slovakian starting in goals would represent a major surprise, after he made his successful loan spell from Sparta Prague permanent in the summer.
Dubravka made a major impact when he came into the team towards the tail end of last season, and will be hoping to carry that form over to help Newcastle get off to a good start on Saturday.
2. RB – DeAndre Yedlin
Another position in which there is minimal doubt or speculation over who will start, DeAndre Yedlin played in 34 of Newcastle’s 38 Premier League games last term, and has showed no signs of giving up his starting berth in pre-season.
It doesn’t seem like there’s a real alternative to Yedlin at right back – Javier Manquillo is perhaps a distant second choice – but even if there was, given his dependability, it is unlikely he would be dropped from the first team for this one.
3. CB – Jamaal Lascelles
He was renowned for his goalscoring exploits as much as defensive solidity in the early part of last season, and another winner for Newcastle on Saturday from the likely captain would be a welcome commodity.
Lascelles was fleetingly linked with a transfer away in the summer, most prominently with Liverpool, as Jurgen Klopp was reportedly in the market for a new centre half. With the Premier League transfer window now closed, however, and interest from abroad unlikely, Lascelles can now focus on carrying over the momentum he picked up last season into the new Premier League campaign.
4. CB – Fabian Schar
Florian Lejeune’s injury means that there is an opening for a berth beside Lascelles at centre back, and new signing Fabian Schar – one of Benitez’ seven summer signings – is looking most likely to grab it.
He made 25 appearances for Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga last term, and will be hoping to build on that by installing himself as a starter at St. James’ Park – something he can go some way towards doing by keeping Harry Kane quiet on Saturday.
5. LB – Paul Dummett
With Chancel Mbemba departing for Porto, the man who kept Paul Dummett out of the team at the beginning of last season is no longer at the club, so the 26 year old has the spot to himself.
The Newcastle youth academy graduate – the only one with a reasonable chance of starting against Spurs – will be hoping to improve on his 21 appearances from last campaign.
6. RM – Matt Ritchie
Ritchie was a star player for Newcastle last season, and little is likely to change in that regard for the forthcoming campaign.
Rafa took a hardline stance in not wanting to sell the Scotland international in the transfer window, and you can see why, with his three goals and six assists in the Premier League last season. He’ll start on the right of midfield, and will be one of the primary sources of creativity.
7. CM – Jonjo Shelvey
Shelvey is regarded as one of the best passers of the ball in the league these days, and such was his demonstrable talent on show last season that many felt he was hard done by to be left out of Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the World Cup.
His physical presence and range of passing will be crucial to Newcastle throughout, and certainly against Spurs in the season opener.
8. CM – Mohamed Diame
The battle to be Shelvey’s partner in midfield looks to be a straight toss-up between new signing Ki Seung Yeung and the dependable Diame – but the physical presence offered by the latter means he looks more likely to be chosen to help combat the threat of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli in midfield.
9. LM – Kenedy
Kenedy was an instant hit when he joined Newcastle on loan from Chelsea in January, and he made himself an indispensable member of the first team throughout the second half of the season, as Newcastle slowly climbed the table to finish 10th.
As such, the news that the Brazilian had joined on loan for the entirety of the 2018/19 campaign was warmly received, and a good performance against Spurs could further endear him to the St. James’ faithful.
10. CAM – Ayoze Perez
Perez’ ten goals across all competitions last season saw him finish as Newcastle’s top scorer, and his efforts are likely to be rewarded with a start against Spurs on Saturday.
It hasn’t always worked for Perez at Newcastle – but last season served as something as a breakthrough, as he proved he can be a consistently effective player for them on the big stage. He’ll be hoping to further establish himself this season – starting with a big performance against Spurs.
11. ST – Yoshinori Muto
Either Muto or Salomon Rondon, both of whom joined this summer, could lead the line against Spurs, but given Rondon will only have trained with the club for 48 hours, it’s likely Muto will be given the nod.
The Japanese forward scored 20 goals in 66 games for Mainz in the Bundesliga, and brings an international pedigree to St. James’ Park, having played for Japan at the World Cup in Russia. He’ll bring something different to the Newcastle attack, and could prove an exciting signing if given the service.