Has Mikel Merino lost his place in Newcastle United's starting line-up?

Newcastle player Mikel Merino in action during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Stoke City at St. James Park on September 16, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Newcastle United midfielder Mikel Merino appears to have lost his place in Rafael Benitez's line-up.

Newcastle player Mikel Merino in action during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Stoke City at St. James Park on September 16, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Mikel Merino now appears to face a battle to win back his place at Newcastle United.

Merino was one of Newcastle’s star players over the early part of the season, and the Magpies quickly moved to make his transfer from Borussia Dortmund permanent in an £8 million transfer (Telegraph).

Newcastle then had to fight hard to keep hold of the Spaniard over the January transfer window.

Newcastle player Mikel Merino (l) is challenged by Phillipe Coutinho of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St. James Park on October 1,...

But it seems that Merino now will have difficulty breaking back into Rafael Benitez’s first-team over the remainder of the campaign.

It was expected that Merino was set to be an integral player all campaign long for Benitez's men, but his importance to the team has diminished in recent weeks. 

Newcastle picked up a 1-0 victory over Manchester United, with Mohamed Diame and Jonjo Shelvey impressing in the heart of midfield.

Mikel Merino of Newcastle United celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Crystal Palace at St. James Park on October 21, 2017...

Diame and Shelvey have become Newcastle’s first choice midfield pairing over recent weeks, with Merino having to watch from the sidelines.

Merino has made just two starts in Newcastle’s last nine outings, and it seems that the best the 21-year-old can now hope for is a rotational role, if Shelvey and Diame continue to keep up their current standard of performance.

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