A new season is upon us and, for the second season in a row, Newcastle begin their campaign with a tough test against Tottenham Hotspur.
Rafael Benitez has endured a frustrating summer once again where his funds under Mike Ashley were limited, leaving the Spaniard searching the market for bargains. Fortunately, he made a number of good signings – but fans are worried it’s not enough.
A hosting of Tottenham is certainly going to be a difficult start to the season, particularly as Benitez has a number of injury concerns. Here, we have identified his likely XI for Saturday’s game.
Goalkeeper – Dubravka
After shining on loan at Tyneside in the second half of last season, Benitez moved swiftly to land Slovakia stopper Martin Dubravka on a permanent basis this summer to become first choice at St. James’ Park ahead of Rob Elliot and Karl Darlow.
Newcastle improved significantly following Dubravka’s arrival in January and will hope that the 29-year-old hits the ground running in his second debut with the Magpies against Spurs. He will certainly breathe a sigh of relief that Harry Kane will not feature after his World Cup exploits.
Defence – Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett
With Florian Lejuene injured, Newcastle have taken a hit defensively ahead of the new Premier League season and Benitez has confirmed that Deadline Day signing Federico Fernandez will not feature in Saturday’s game.
In the absence of the recent acquisition from Swansea City, Ciaran Clark is likely to start alongside skipper Jamaal Lascelles – who Newcastle fans will be delighted has remained at St. James’ Park despite interest from a host of Premier League sides.
On the flanks, Benitez is likely to call upon DeAndre Yedlin and Paul Dummett as his first-choice options.
Midfield – Ritchie, Diame, Shelvey, Kenedy
Back on loan at St. James’ Park for a second spell after excelling in the second half of last season, Kenedy will carry large expectations into his first full season on Tyneside and the Brazil talent will be looking to show that his form last year was not just a purple patch.
In the middle, Jonjo Shelvey will be aiming to force his way back into the England perception by showing that his ill mannered temper is behind him, while Mohamed Diame is also likely to be crucial in a position where some may be concerned about the depth following Mikel Merino’s departure.
Experienced Scotland international Matt Ritchie will provide a solid option on the right side and is expected to start the campaign as first choice, while Christian Atsu will give him a stern battle for his spot in the squad.
Attack – Perez, Rondon
Benitez was desperate to bolster his attacking options in the summer and landed two recruits as a result, securing Japan international Yoshinori Muto and Salomon Rondon from West Brom – giving him two superb options to select from.
Rondon is expected to get the nod initially due to his Premier League experience and will aim to hit the ground running on Tyneside, having hit seven goals and contributing three assists during West Brom’s relegation campaign last season.
He will find attacking support from Ayoze Perez in a number ten role, with the 25-year-old looking to prove himself as a potential leading man for the Magpies as he enters his fifth season with the club.