Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez has been handed a huge boost for tomorrow’s crunch clash against fellow survival strugglers Cardiff, as three of his first-team stars look set to be fit for the game at St James Park, as reported by the Shields Gazette.
What’s the latest?
After watching his captain Jamaal Lascelles limp off in the midweek FA Cup win over Blackburn, Benitez is hoping to have the former Nottingham Forest defender fit and ready for the visit of the Bluebirds – the 25-year-old was involved in Thursday’s training sessions after fears he could be out for a couple of weeks.
Both Mohamed Diame and Kenedy could be available for the relegation six-pointer after a recent spout of absence.
The Senegalese international has been missing since the start of January with a thigh issue, but looks to have made a recovery and could go straight into the Spanish boss’ starting lineup. In Kenedy’s case, the Brazilian missed the FA Cup win over Blackburn due to a problem with his nail, but looks to have overcome that.
However, Ciaran Clark, Paul Dummett and Jonjo Shelvey were not involved in training.
How could Benitez line up?
The former Liverpool and Chelsea boss prefers to deploy a 5-2-2-1 formation, or a 5-4-1 formation with three centre-backs, wing-backs and Salomon Rondon as a lone striker, so there is no reason why he would change his system for a game as important as this one against Neil Warnock’s side.
If Clark is to miss the game, one of Federico Fernandez or Fabian Schar will miss out as Jamaal Lascelles and Florian Lejeune occupy the other two centre-back positions. Additionally, if Diame is fit, Benitez could well line up with him and Isaac Hayden in the middle of the park, as a result of Ki Sung-yeung being away on international duty and Shelvey’s injury.
Benitez played natural centre-back Schar in an unusual midfield position against Blackburn, and the Swiss defender excelled in an unfamiliar area of the pitch. However, for a game of such magnitude against Cardiff, the Magpies may not be as experimental as they were in the FA Cup, which could see Schar miss out.
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