Predicted Newcastle side to play Tottenham: Mikel Merino must start

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez celebrates  after winning the Sky Bet Championship Title after the match between Newcastle United and Barnsley at St James' Park on May 7, 2017 in...

The new arrival has arguably impressed more than any other Newcastle player in pre-season.

Newcastle may not have had the smoothest of transfer windows so far, but they kick off their return to the Premier League against Tottenham with at least one exciting new arrival on board.

The loan move for Mikel Merino from Borussia Dortmund is arguably the only transfer to illuminate a stop-start summer for the Magpies, and the Spanish midfielder has shown enough flashes in pre-season to warrant starting against Spurs at St James’ Park.

Serbia's forward Uros Djurdjevic and Spain's midfielder Mikel Merino (R) vie for the ball during the UEFA U-21 European Championship Group B football match Serbia v Spain in Bydgoszcz,...

A central-midfield partnership with Jonjo Shelvey could provide enough guile and creativity to allow Newcastle to compete with Premier League defences this season.

Aside from Merino, Rafael Benitez should also hand debuts to defensive duo Florian Lejeune and Javier Manquillo.

Paul Dummett, Ciaran Clark and Rob Elliot know all about the Premier League and can round-off the back five in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Meanwhile, ahead of Shelvey and Merino there appears to be a fitness concern over last season’s top scorer Dwight Gayle.

But should a hamstring injury rule the former Crystal Palace man out of action, Aleksandar Mitrovic is a fine replacement having netted in his last two games against Tottenham. He also scored three goals in six games during pre-season.

Matt Ritchie, Ayoze Perez and Christian Atsu are likely to fill the three attacking positions behind the Serb.

Here’s our full predicted XI:

Predicted Newcastle XI v Tottenham

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