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Rafa Benitez, like all managers, has played around a little with his squad during the close season but has a clear idea of what is required against Tottenham Hotspur next week.
He hasn’t found his Gerrard yet, something the intended deal for Tom Cairney was supposed to solve, but he will still stick with his 4-4-1-1 most likely, probably with the following personnel:
The Republic of Ireland international usurped the popular Karl Darlow towards the end of last season after recovering from injury and should be the no.1 this term.
At the moment, it’s a close call between him and DeAndre Yedlin. However, it appears Manquillo has more potential. If he comes out of his shell, he could be an excellent full-back.
The skipper did well last season considering he is still very much learning his trade and may get to partner the new man at the back, at the expense of Ciaran Clark.
The big centre-back has been calm and composed in pre-season and crucially, he can play on either side of the central defensive pairing.
A much better left-back than some fans give him credit for. He’s no Roberto Carlos of course, but is defensively sound and rarely let the manager down.
The lightning quick Jacob Murphy will make an appearance at some stage but Magic Matt remains no.1 in this position and scored a beauty of a free-kick against Wolfsburg recently to help cement his place.
With his focus now right where it needs to be, the talented former Liverpool man started training early this summer of his own accord and has set his sights on getting into the England squad this season.
The new arrival looked very good at Wolfsburg in the club’s 3-1 friendly win and should provide some extra quality in the middle of the park. Isaac Hayden is the alternative.
Rolando Aarons is arguably the one with the most potential, but Atsu has been increasingly impressive in pre-season since signing permanently from Chelsea and looks like the all-round package.
With Mitrovic in decent goal scoring form, Benitez may have been tempted with a proper front two, but that most likely wouldn’t work. And so without a new player in this position, it comes down to Perez and Diame, with the Spaniard being the favoured option.
Deserves another crack at the Premier League and has been very good once again in the friendlies. At this stage of his career, if you give him a chance, he will score. So he could be a very, very valuable player this term.