The team that Rafa starts today against Vitesse will give us a decent indication of what team he will start on Friday night in the first league game of the Championship season.
Here’s our team in a 4-2-3-1 formation:
Janmaat Lascelles (c) Mbemba Gamez
Richie Perez Aarons
In goal Matz Sels has had a few dodgy moments in pre-season and Karl Darlow looked (very) good on Tuesday night at Southend, but maybe Sels is just settling into the team – so we expect him to start today.
It’s probably too early to play Grant Hanley at the back because of his lack of match practice, but expect him to play at least the second half today and he will put pressure on Chancel Mbemba for a starting position once the season kicks off.
At left back we have Jesus Gamez rather than local lad Paul Dummett or Vurnon Anita.
Surely Rafa brought Gamez in from playing Champions League football with Atletico Madrid to become a starter at Newcastle?
Paul Dummett could start today, but we expect at some point for Jesus to become a starter in the back four – somewhere.
The two holding positions are interesting and we have gone with Shelvey and Hayden, although Vurnon Anita, Jack Colback and Cheick Tiote are all pushing for a place – that’s a tough choice for those two important positions
But Shelvey has shown good form and Isaac has been a revelation at Newcastle so far and they seem to play well together.
The two wingers are Matt Ritchie and Rolando Aarons – not much doubt there – assuming Matt is fit.
We have the in-form Ayoze Perez in the number 10 spot.
Up front is Dwight Gayle to get some playing time with Aleksandar Mitrovic banned for the first four games of the season.
OK – now for the important stuff – what team would you start today?