Attacking duo axed as untested star thrown in deep end: Newcastle best XI v Huddersfield
The 3-0 victory Newcastle United picked up over Southampton was exactly what the club needed heading into the international break.
A dominant performance culminated in a convincing scoreline which in turn lifted some of the pressure of the relegation battle weighing down on the shoulders of the Magpies’ stars.
Beating the Saints kept their rivals for survival in the mire while lifting themselves further away from the drop zone, and every point picked up from those around the club only helps their cause.
It is what makes Saturday’s clash against Huddersfield such an important occasion.
The Terriers sit just one point and two places behind the 13th placed Magpies in the Premier League table, and so securing victory at St James’ Park is crucial for both sides.
With three weeks between league fixtures, Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez will have been extensive in his plans, especially when it comes to who starts.
He must stick with the tactics which worked against Southampton, although he can still improve his personnel.
Attacking pair Dwight Gayle and Ayoze Perez must be axed from the starting XI to be replaced with Islam Slimani and Mikel Merino, the untested Algerian being thrown into the deep end after featuring for Algeria in mid-week.
Benitez has quite rightfully avoided switching things up at the back for some time and that should continue, while Mohamed Diame and Jonjo Shelvey are the best pair in the middle right now.
Wingers Matt Ritchie and Kenedy should no doubt keep their places after both netting against Southampton, but it the centre of the attack where things should be changed.
Merino has spoken about his desire to play further up the pitch and Benitez should be giving him the chance to shine as soon as possible, starting with the visit of the Terriers.
As for Slimani, his inclusion is no doubt a gamble, considering he made his first appearance for some time on Tuesday with Algeria, but if the 29-year-old is going to be a success on Tyneside, he needs the game time, and it is better now than never.
In other Newcastle United transfer news, the Magpies are eyeing up an 11-goal star to fill a problem position.