Date: 31st March 2016 at 9:45pm
Written by:

By Coral Barry

Rafael Benitez has two major decisions with no fit senior left-back or goalkeeper available for selection ahead of Newcastle’s Premier League relegation showdown with Norwich on Saturday.

Newcastle’s top-flight survival hopes were dealt a huge blow on Wednesday with the news that Rob Elliott has been ruled out for at least six months.

The Magpies will also be without unavailable quartet Paul Dummett, Jack Colback, Massadio Haidara and Kevin Mbabu when they travel to Carrow Road.

Newcastle are second from bottom of the table, but know a victory could lift them out of the drop zone and drag 17th-placed Norwich into the bottom three.

Who plays at left-back has turned into a real headache for Benitez and will serve as his first real tactical challenge since arriving at Newcastle tasked with saving them from the Championship.

The Spaniard turned to Colback in the Magpies’ last game to fill in at full-back, but the midfielder is now serving a two-match suspension after picking up his tenth yellow card against Sunderland.

It means Benitez may turn to another midfielder to take on the responsibility with Vurnon Anita the most viable option still left standing.

Karl Darlow

Risky replacement: Darlow has made just two appearances for Newcastle

Anita can potentially do a good job at left-back and would at least possess some defensive know-how as a player whose usual role is as a defensive midfielder.

Another option is to move Jamaal Lascelles to full-back and recall centre-back Steven Taylor to the Newcastle starting eleven, although the 30-year-old’s pace could prove to be a major weakness against the likes of Norwich’s Matt Jarvis and lightning-quick Robbie Brady.

In Elliot’s absence, Karl Darlow is in line to make just his third appearance for Newcastle since moving to the club in 2014.

The 26-year-old stopper has been a peripheral figure at St James’ Park so far, but is about to be thrust into the spotlight in the last eight league games as Newcastle fight to maintain their top-flight status.

Newcastle (possible): Darlow; Janmaat, Mbemba, Lascelles, Anita; Shelvey, Wijnaldum; Townsend, Ayoze, Sissoko, Mitrovic.

In other Newcastle news, the Magpies’ other injured goalkeeper, Tim Krul has given his verdict on Darlow’s chances.