As we noted in our match preview earlier today, Alan Pardew has taken 19 players with him to Ukraine for Newcastle's match with Metalist Kharkiv Thursday. It appears that the Toon will indeed field a strong lineup, which will surely make those who would abandon Europe to concentrate on league position nervous. Just how strong will the XI be? Let's take a look.
Tim Krul, Rob Elliot
Pardew didn't bring Krul along so he could ride the bench. If he intended to start Elliot, surely Harper would have been the reserve.
Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Massadio Haidara, Danny Simpson
The absence of Davide Santon means we'll likely see MY-M or Haidara on the left side. Yanga-Mbiwa was impressive down the right last week. Either Pardew is interested to see how handle the other side or he's going to give Haidara some work as a reward for some strong reserve performances. If Massadio gets the nod, we could see Mapou at RCB, but I'd wager on Saylor starting there no matter what. Coloccini and Simpson are near-locks. Simpson appears to be match fit now, and easing him back into the flow away from England is a shrewd move.
By the way, I've left James Perch out of this discussion because he hasn't been used on the back line since Steven Taylor returned, but he could always slide back if needed.
Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tiote, Moussa Sissoko, Jonas Gutierrez, Gabriel Obertan, Vurnon Anita, Sylvain Marveaux, James Perch, Gael Bigirimana, Dan Gosling
The abundance of midfield players suggests that one of their number will be the one left out of a bench spot, assuming there are no injuries between now and game time. Dan Gosling sticks out as the obvious candidate, since it's been quite a while since he's been in Pardew's plans. Even without him, it's hard to figure how Pardew will play this one. The rest of the team selection suggests he's going for it, so we'll assume that Cabaye, Tiote, Sissoko, and Jonas will all start. Jonas has been effective on the right side, and since Santon is missing there's absolutely no reason to mess with a formula that works. Obertan shredded Metalist's wing backs last week, so he's an obvious candidate to return. However, given our stated desire to see more effective crossing, I'd prefer Marveaux on the left wing. One will likely be available to spell the other, and Bigirimana will back up Tiote in case he gets into disciplinary trouble.
Shola Ameobi, Papiss Cisse
The inclusion of only two strikers ensures a return to the 4-2-3-1. Pardew's comments all week have been about Cisse's unlucky streak, and he'll likely be looking to use this fixture to get him back into form. Bet on Shola to be used as a sub no matter the situation - deployed as an extra striker should Newcastle need a late goal or used as an extra tall man in the box if they have to bunker down. I'm not sure what the line is on Shola to score, but if I were a betting man, I'd bet on him to score every time Newcastle played on the road in Europe.
Our best guess is a lineup that's not all that different from last week's:
Simpson --- STaylor --- Colo --- Yanga-Mbiwa
Cabaye --- Tiote
Jonas --- Sissoko --- Obertan
How would you play it?