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Newcastle United and Rafa Benitez travel down to Yorkshire this weekend and despite it only being the second week, the pressure is on both the Spanish manager and owner Mike Ashley.

The former Liverpool boss wants reinforcements, but the Sports Direct tycoon made it clear that funds were extremely tight. Rafa will need to sell before he can buy. Easier said than done.

It's a situation that has become even more important in the North East due to the injuries and suspensions they face this week. New signing Florian Lejeune and full-back Paul Dummett had to come off the field injured – they will both miss the fixture.

Also out is Jonjo Shelvey, the midfielder saw red, literally, standing on Dele Alli’s ankle in the 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur.


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They now take on David Wagner’s quick pressing, high-octane Huddersfield Town side, with both teams fairly familiar with each other.

In that sense, the German coach will have the edge, with United not changing too much since their Championship clashes last season. Whereas Wagner can call upon striker Steve Mounie, the Frenchman scoring a double on his debut at Crystal Palace.

“I am very excited about Sunday’s game,” said Wagner pre-game. “I’m sure it will be an extraordinary atmosphere against Newcastle United. We will have to get the little details right.

“We have to be totally focused. Last week was only one game but it was a perfect result for us. It’s given us confidence that what we did in pre-season was right.”

Rafa has to get both the big and smaller details right, or he could face going into the last week of the transfer window without any points and a squad that definitely needs work.

Jamaal Lascalles will come in for Lejeune, the former Liverpool transfer target came off the bench and was Newcastle’s captain for long spells last season. No worries there.

At left-back, expect Chancel Mbemba to step into that position. Although naturally a centre-back, the only other options are Achraf Lazaar and Massadio Haidara.

Summer signing Mikel Merino will get the opportunity to show that he is the man to pull the strings in the Newcastle midfield. Even Benitez admitted it’s up to his team to perform in order to keep Shelvey out of the line-up once he is available.

Up front is the biggest question mark. Dwight Gayle has been training this week, but no one is quite sure if he is ready to go. His pace would be great weapon against Wagner’s press.

It could lead to Benitez handing a debut to new signing Joselu. However, without time to integrate himself, it would be a huge ask for the Spaniard.

Gayle started against Spurs, but came off after 76 minutes. Doubts remain over whether he can make the step up the Premier League. Newcastle need him at his best, but more than anything else, they need the three points.

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