COMMENT by Russell Edge
Newcastle United boss Rafael Benitez can expect to missing a handful of his top stars when he takes his side to take on Manchester United on Saturday.
The Magpies, who are on a run of suffering two successive 1-0 defeats, return from the international break with a trip to Old Trafford, facing a Manchester United side sitting second in the table.
The two week break in league action has not been kind to Benitez, with the Spanish manager having to contend with a series of long-term and recent injury blows.
While midfield maestro Mikel Merino will continue to miss out as a result of a back injury, Christian Atsu and Jamaal Lascelles, who have both appeared in every match this season, are expected to miss out, with Jacob Murphy and Ciaran Clark likely to take their place.
Benitez is also predicted to revert to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation after playing 4-4-2 against Bournemouth, which should see Dwight Gayle drop to the bench to be replaced by Ayoze Perez, who was axed against the Cherries.
Firmly the number one choice in goal, Rob Elliot will likely have Benitez’s regular back four in recent matches, minus Lascelles, in front of him, while Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden should be looking to dominate the midfield against the Red Devils.
Murphy is expected to make only his second start of the campaign in place of the absent Atsu, and he should join Perez, who had been a regular started prior to the match against Bournemouth, and Matt Ritchie in supporting Joselu up front.
In other Newcastle United news, this axed figure has made a surprise revelation over his future at the club.