Should Aleksandar Mitrovic be recalled to the Newcastle starting eleven this weekend?
Newcastle have started the season steadily and have provided themselves with a solid base to push on for promotion. They have a big squad and a top two finish is expected, but one fan favourite hasn’t featured much this season. Aleksandar Mitrovic was banned for the first four matches of the season and has struggled to displace Dwight Gayle since becoming available once more. The Serbian was regarded as one of the brightest talents in European football when at Anderlecht and won’t have seen Championship football as part of his future, especially not as a bit-part player. It is now up to him to force his way into Rafa Benitez’s first eleven and two goals for Serbia during the international break will have done his cause no harm at all.
The two goals were a result of clever movement on Mitrovic’s part with the second coming from a trademark header. It was a much needed confidence boost for the Newcastle number 45 after a slow start to the season. His physique is both a strength and a weakness, as it can take him some time to get back to full match fitness. The powerful striker looked back to his best against Austria and he has given his club manager a real selection headache.
At the end of the match, Mitrovic returned to the dressing room to find a text from Benitez congratulating him on his performance. This shows the Spaniard’s excellent man management, but it will be interesting to see if he does recall Mitrovic this weekend. Although Dwight Gayle has been in excellent goal-scoring form, the Serbian would be a much better fit for Benitez’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Newcastle have already lost twice at St James’ Park this season and a start for the 22-year-old could be the change that is required to fix the home form.
It would be a huge call if Mitrovic is recalled this weekend as he has played just 141 minutes in the Championship this season. His single start came in the 6-0 away win against QPR, a match in which the team gave their best performance of the season. Although it wasn’t purely due to Mitrovic, he had a hand in two goals and it has surprised supporters that he hasn’t featured in the starting eleven since. It seems that Benitez needs to be convinced further by the former Anderlecht striker before he becomes a regular starter.
There is a possibility that Benitez opts for two strikers as the match is at home and teams have set up to play on the counter-attack at St James’ Park this season. Against Norwich, it was the decision to put Mitrovic alongside Gayle that provided Newcastle with the momentum to go on to win the match. The winning goal was a result of great link-up play between the two and it sparked hope that a strike partnership could be developing. Benitez would have to move away from his favoured formation, which he rarely has done throughout his managerial career. That said, the Newcastle boss is pragmatic and will recognise the need to be flexible in order to gain promotion at the first attempt.
Newcastle will be facing Brentford at home this weekend and Mitrovic should be given the opportunity to start the match. He has the physical presence to do well in the Championship and pairing him with Gayle would catch Brentford by surprise as it would be the first time Benitez starts with two strikers this season. They are a classic big man/little man partnership and could be the key to propelling Newcastle back to the Premier League.
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