Following their 2-2 draw against Norwich on Tuesday, Newcastle United return to action on Monday night as they host Aston Villa at the Saint James’ Park in their 32nd Championship game of the campaign.
The Magpies have a chance to regain top spot after Brighton’s win on Saturday saw them drop to 2nd place, and there can be no better way to do so than play against a weak Aston Villa side that has managed just 8 wins this term and have found themselves just 6 points off the relegation zone.
Both teams have plied different routes since getting relegated last term, and there is now a huge gulf in quality between their squads, but it doesn’t mean the hosts would have it easy on Monday night as Steve Bruce’s men will be playing for a lot, including pride.
Benitez has been boosted by the return of some of his key players, although he is still sweating over the fitness of Isaac Hayden who isn’t certain to return to action anytime from now.
For Monday night’s clash, the Spanish manager could assemble a starting XI akin to this:
Formation : 4-4-1-1
GK – Darlow
Continues to man Newcastle’s goal and has been one of the big reasons they are making a return to the Premier League next season.
LB – Dummett
The Welsh fullback has played more games than any Newcastle player this term and has been a reliable member of their defence.
Should be making his 31st league appearance of the season on Monday night.
CB – Clark
The Irish centre-half has gone about his business diligently thus far, and has gotten booked only once in 26 games.
Remains a constant name on the starting XI team sheet.
CB – Lascelles
The skipper has had a hand in 2 goals in his last 2 games and can prove useful to the attack once again. He is walking on a defensive tight rope, though, as one more booking will see him miss the next game.
RB – Yedlin
The U.S international continues at right-back unchallenged with Anita yet to receive medical all-clear to return to action and is a sure starter for the Aston Villa clash.
LM – Gouffran
The French winger has permanently retained the left wing berth ahead of Atsu and is set to make his 26th start of the season on Monday.
CM – Colback
With Hayden out, he has become Shelvey’s midfield partner, and was impressive against Norwich where he got an assist.
Should start on Monday night again.
CM – Shelvey
Has continued to call the shots in the middle of the park for the Magpies, and that won’t be changing anytime soon.
RM – Ritchie
The winger was unlucky not to continue his recent form of notching goals as he could only strike the bar against Norwich.
Poised to make his 28th start of the Championship season on Monday night.
AMC – Perez
It’s hard to imagine the Spaniard not starting against Villa after his man-of-the-match performance against Norwich that saw him grab a goal and assist.
CF – Gayle
The league’s highest goalscorer returned to action against Norwich after spending a month on the injury sidelines but could only play 14 minutes off the bench.
Looks to have attained full fitness and would likely start on Monday evening.