At the weekend the visitors left St. James’ Park with a surprise 2-0 victory, thanks to an own goal from Newcastle’s Chancel Mbemba and a late Helder Costa strike. In an attempt to avoid excessive travel and to enhance the morale of a recently assembled squad, Wolves manager Walter Zenga decided to keep his charges based in the northeast in preparation for tonight’s encounter.
Newcastle will be hoping to rediscover their recently impressive form prior to their disappointing Championship defeat to Wolves, in which they have lost just once in seven outings.
Here are three things to watch for in the build up to what promises to be a competitively entertaining cup-tie.
Wolves’ search for consistency
Wolverhampton Wanderers supporters are surely in for an interesting campaign. Their club has witnessed new owners, a new manager and a more-than respectable outlay on a large influx of players from around the globe. The inevitable caveat to such change is a transitional period where inconsistency has been rife. Wolves currently sit in tenth position in the Championship, with three wins, three draws and two defeats; shipping just one fewer goal than the ten scored.
Inconsistency with team selection is also relevant. The gap filled by midfielder Kevin McDonald’s departure to Fulham is yet to be filled with any kind of effect, with Moroccan Romain Saiss looking like the closest fix. Unfortunately, summer signings Silvio and Ola John are yet to play for the Molineux club – but both look likely to make their debuts against Newcastle.
Zenga may also look at refreshing his starting line-up, considering his recent worries regarding the huge distance that his team have covered in recent games. A shake up of the team for the EFL Cup may be on the cards – in which case don’t be surprised if the Italian rolls out a completely different side to the one so successful against Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle three days ago. If this materialises then Wolves’ search for consistency may have to wait a little longer.
No stranger to rotation – particularly in the non-European games of his Liverpool days – Newcastle’s manager Rafa Benitez looks likely to rotate his squad for tonight’s game against Wolves. In a line-up that is predicted to be much changed, the Spaniard is tipped to give Archaf Lazaar and, after impressing in training, Daryl Murphy their debuts. Other names in line to start are the pacey duo of American international DeAndre Yedlin and Christian Atsu – the Ghanaian on loan from Chelsea.
In his pre-match press conference, Benitez confirmed that two players who definitely will not feature are Jesus Gamez and the continued absence of Chieck Tiote.
Described as the best tactical coach that Steven Gerrard ever worked with, Rafa Benitez was tactically humbled last weekend, as Wolves’ manager Walter Zenga out-thought the former Real Madrid boss. Benitez will not want a repeat result tonight and his reported to be considering a change to a 3-5-2 system. The inclusions of DeAndre Yedlin and Archaf Lazaar would suit a switch to wing-backs, with central defenders Ciaran Clark, Grant Hanley and Jamaal Lascelles providing the defensive stability that any Benitez team craves.