Newcastle dropped down to the Championship after an extremely inconsistent season in the Premier League. The Magpies boasted of players very much capable of a top-half finish let alone saving relegation. But things just did not get going for them. Failing to build any sort of momentum with the team taking one step forward and two steps back throughout the season, even the late appointment of former Real Madrid manager could not salvage the season for them.
But cut forward to the summer, the mood around St. James’ Park was more hopeful and they seemed to have recovered from the mighty set-back of last season. Though the prospect of a Premier League -less season was appalling, the figure of Rafa Benitez was a calming factor for the fans and they were quietly confident of an immediate promotion citing the talent on offer at the club. Benitez had to deal with the expected departures of the star players from the team, who chickened out at the prospect of a Championship graft. He changed the basic core of the team and looked to recruit more British players who appreciated the travails along with the prestige of the Championship. Players who recognised the project Newcastle were undertaking and who were willing to fight for the club and carry them into the Premier League.
Newcastle were very much the bookies and the fans favourite for the 1st spot in the table come the end of the season. But football again proved a great leveller as after two matches and two consecutive defeats they find themselves hovering near the bottom of the table. Things have been put into perspective and with a more realistic expectation, Rafa will look to take the pressure off the players and help them play their natural game. With a host of changes. it was natural the team will find it difficult to gel and that it will be a time-taking process.
With the lack of creativity on show in the weekend, Rafa is all set to shuffle his packs against Reading , who have won and lost one apiece till now. Benitez has ruled out Diame and Moussa Sissoko out of the game citing ankle injuries. But the jury is out on Sissoko’s cause for absence!
Jesus Gamez should get a look-in and with his tremendous experience will not find himself out of sorts in this formation with 3 at the back alongside Mbemba and Lascelles. While Perez, Gayle and Ritchie up front should be enough to cause considerable damage on the Reading goal while Hayden and Shelvey are given a more central role. With Janmaat and Colback on the two sides. Darlow might get a look in between the sticks.