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Live Q&A: Centre-backs and Lejeune’s return
SJ asks: What do you think is Newcastle’s best centre-back pairing so far – and who would Florian Lejeune replace once he is fit?
If there is one area of the Newcastle squad which is blessed with strength in depth, it is certainly centre-back.
Even with Florian Lejeune still out injured, United have four good options in Lascelles, Federicio Fernandez, Fabian Schar and Ciaran Clark.
Lascelles is a minor doubt for Saturday’s game but, when he was forced off due to injury against Watford, Schar put in an impressive 45-minute display.
As for Fernandez, he has arguably been Newcastle’s player of the season so far – with the Argentine having consistently impressed since joining from Swansea City.
In terms of the best centre-back pairing available at the moment, I still think that would be Lascelles and Fernandez; the former brings leadership, while the latter offers consistency.
The problem is that central-defensive pairing lacks a real ball-playing presence; one of the reasons why Schar’s performance was so refreshing was because he was able to influence United’s attacks from the back, something they have not had all season due to Lejeune’s absence.
I still think Schar needs a little more time to really adapt to the Premier League, however, and so he wouldn’t necessarily get the nod for me yet.
As for when Lejeune returns, well then Benitez will have a major selection headache – but in a positive sense.
The Frenchman could be back in the first-team fold by the end of the year, but United will not risk him until he has fully recovered from his knee-ligament damage.
Choosing two out of Lascelles, Lejeune and Fernandez is certainly no easy task – but for me it would be Lejeune, plus one of the other two. In my opinion, the Frenchman really is that important to the United side.