COMMENT by Russell Edge
Newcastle United boss Rafael Benitez need only make a couple of changes to his starting XI to batter Crystal Palace off the pitch at St James’ Park on Saturday.
The Magpies come into the match off the back of a 2-2 draw away at Southampton last weekend, with the Spanish manager having twice seen his side surrender the lead to leave the south coast with just a point.
As a result he should axe Ayoze Perez and Javier Manquillo from the starting XI, with Mikel Merino and Chancel Mbemba taking their place in the line up.
While Rob Elliot and Florian Lejeune endured a difficult time against the Saints, both putting in shaky performances, but they should retain their places, with Jamaal Lascelles lining up alongside the Frenchman in the heart of defence.
On the flanks, DeAndre Yedlin, who was lucky to stay on the pitch at St Mary’s, should be supported by Chancel Mbemba on the other flank, who, although he has been excluded from the first team squad in recent weeks, impressed prior to being dropped.
In midfield, Isaac Hayden, who scored his first Premier League goal against Southampton, should continue alongside Jonjo Shelvey, who has re-established himself in the starting XI after his suspension earlier in the season.
However Ayoze Perez, who has been a stalwart in the starting XI this season, should be axed despite having netted against the Saints, with Mikel Merino, who was rested after international duty last week, taking on the role of playmaker, just as he does for Spain’s under-21.
On the wings Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie should continue having developed into the first choice options under Benitez, while Joselu, who has just one goal in recent weeks, should start up top.
With that line up, Newcastle should demolish the Eagles and continue their impressive return to the top flight.
In other Newcastle United news, Benitez has been handed a huge blow before the club’s clash with Crystal Palace.