COMMENT by Russell Edge
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez should drop captain and defender Jamaal Lascelles from his side when Preston North End visit St James’ Park on Monday.
Lascelles had a torrid time in his side’s surprise 3-1 defeat to Ipswich, and with Ciaran Clark returning from injury, the Newcastle captain should step aside.
Fellow centre back Grant Hanley should also drop to the bench, with Chancel Mbemba, who was dropped after impressing against Leeds, replacing him.
Up front, it is about time Rafa Benitez tried two up top.
Dwight Gayle is expected to be in contention after recovering from a hamstring injury, and he should partner Daryl Murphy, who managed to get on the scoresheet against his former club Ipswich.
The little and large combination ought to work against an average Preston defence, and form a dangerous partnership as Gayle looks to extend his goal tally in the race for the golden boot.
In the middle of the park, Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden will have to dictate play a lot better than they did against Ipswich.
The two struggled to have any real impact on the game and it contributed to the surprise defeat.
However, as they have shown throughout the season, the pairing are Newcastle’s best choice in midfield, and if Shelvey can get back to his creative best, then the Magpies could create a number of chances for Gayle and Murphy.
However, by playing two up top, Newcastle would lose a man in midfield, which is why Matt Ritchie and Yoan Gouffran start ahead of the likes of Christian Atsu.
The two wingers work as hard in defence as they do in attack, and with Paul Dummett and DeAndre Yedlin as support, Preston should struggle to create chances down the wings, whilst also being vulnerable from the quality of the Newcastle wide men.
In other Newcastle team news news, the club are targeting a 25-year-old Premier League defender as a summer signing.