Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez should be handing Jonjo Shelvey his last chance to save his Magpies career when they take on Stoke City in their New Year’s Day clash.
The Magpies almost sent St James’ Park to sleep in their dour 0-0 draw against Brighton, with attacking opportunities from both sides able to be counted on one hand.
It was not the performance Benitez would have wanted to see from his side, as he looked to secure three points over a fellow promoted side and one which could be fighting relegation alongside the north east club come the end of the season.
One man dropped from the starting XI against the Seagulls was Jonjo Shelvey, the former Swansea man no longer guaranteed a place in the line up after his disciplinary issues this season.
With the club reportedly ready to welcome a bidding war for his services in January, and West Ham named as firm favourites for his signing, Benitez needs to hand him his final chance to prove himself, before choosing whether to ship him out.
The Spanish manager should axe Mikel Merino, Matt Ritchie and Joselu for what is the best XI based on availability and form, bringing in Shelvey, Jacob Murphy and Ayoze Perez into a 4-2-3-1 formation.
At the back there should be few changes made, after they held Brighton at bay, with Lascelles and Yedlin having also limited the potent threat of Manchester City in their previous game.
Shelvey, in what should be his last chance saloon, is likely to line up next to Isaac Hayden, who offers a defensive foil to the 25-year-old’s creativity and vision.
Ritchie had a shocker against Brighton, and the pace of Murphy and Atsu could terrorise Stoke, who have a strong and powerful back line not known for their mobility.
As such, it should be Gayle and Perez who start, making use of their pace, dribbling ability and movement to constantly threaten the Potters’ defence.
In other Newcastle United news, a top figure has revealed some early team news for the club’s clash against Stoke.