By Russell Edge

2nd Nov, 2017 | 3:50pm

Benitez to drop axe in Newcastle expected XI v Bournemouth

COMMENT by Russell Edge

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez is expected to keep faith with the majority of his starting XI against Bournemouth despite having suffered defeat to Burnley on Monday.

A Jeff Hendrick goal was all that separated the two sides at Turf Moor, as Newcastle continued their disappointing away form which has seen them pick up just one win on their travels all season.

They return to St James’ Park to host Bournemouth on Saturday, with Benitez having helped turn St James’ Park into a fortress, with their opening day defeat to Tottenham their only loss in front of the Toon Army.

Ahead of the showdown with the Cherries, who sit in 19th place in the table, many may predict that the Spanish manager would change up his side, considering his history of rotation.

However supporters should expect him to retain many of the starters at Burnley, with Mo Diame being axed in place of Isaac Hayden the only likely swap.

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There are unlikely to be any changes either between the sticks or across the back line, with Benitez having seemingly nailed down his starting defence, despite one or two errors from Florian Lejeune in recent weeks.

It is the midfield where the change is likely to come with Hayden, nursing a minor injury prior to Monday’s clash, taking his place back in the starting line up from his replacement Diame, while Mikel Merino is expected to miss out all together through injury.

Christian Atsu, one of the brightest sparks for the Magpies at Turf Moor, and Matt Ritchie are Benitez’s top choice wingers and that should continue again on Saturday, as they support Ayoze Perez and Joselu up top, despite Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic both fighting for a starting role.

In other Newcastle United news, Paul Merson has blasted the club in his prediction for Saturday’s showdown.

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