By Russell Edge

23rd Feb, 2018 | 3:58pm

Newcastle best XI v Bournemouth: Senior duo axed after first team bombshell

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez should be axing two of his players from the starting XI when the Magpies visit Bournemouth on Saturday.
The Magpies have had a two week break to revel in their shock victory over Manchester United, with Matt Ritchie’s first goal of the season meaning they have launched themselves from the relegation zone into 13th ahead of this weekend’s fixtures.
Bournemouth have also had a fortnight from their last fixture, although they will have spent the last two weeks stewing after a humiliating 4-1 defeat away at Huddersfield, leaving them three points and three places above Benitez and his men ahead of Saturday’s clash.
Despite the surprise win over Manchester United, the Spanish manager would have been expected to make at least one change to his starting XI, with Islam Slimani looking set to make his first appearance for the club after suffering from a thigh injury.
However, it has been confirmed that the Algerian has been handed a setback in his recovery, and the injury bombshell may well have changed Benitez’s plans entirely.
As a result, he should make two changes to his starting XI, with Dwight Gayle and Ayoze Perez dropped in favour of Joselu and Jacob Murphy.

The Spanish striker has been out for the past two games, having suffered from illness, but he should be reinstated as Benitez looks to make the most of a target man up front.
Ritchie showed off his talents coming through the middle against Manchester United, scoring with a late run into the box, and so should be given the chance to shine, with Murphy coming onto the right flank to inject some pace into the side.
Mo Diame and Jonjo Shelvey have been outstanding in recent weeks and so should start once again in the middle of the pitch, and the defence is looking assured with Martin Dubravka behind them, so should also remain unchanged.
Slimani’s absence will be a big blow for the fans, but this is a side which should still be up for the challenge of the Cherries.
In other Newcastle United transfer news, a top flight giant has readied an £18million bid for one of the club’s top stars.

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