Steve McClaren says his team selection for Newcastle United’s home game against Aston Villa tonight is “easy” – even though he must leave out two on-form strikers.
Ayoze Perez and Aleksandar Mitrovic came off the bench to fire Newcastle to a 2-1 win at Tottenham last weekend, lifting the Tynesiders out of the Premier League relegation zone and up to 15th place.
The pair are pushing for recalls to the starting XI for the visit of basement club Aston Villa (5.30pm).
“The key thing for me is that I have four strikers,” said head coach McClaren, whose side are eyeing a third straight win.
“They are all training well, and, over the last two games, especially last week, the four of them won us the game.”
McClaren paired Papiss Cisse and Siem de Jong up front for the wins over Tottenham and Liverpool. And he has hinted that Perez and Mitrovic could again find themselves on the bench tonight.
McClaren added: “Siem and Papiss have come into the team and provided experience and a certain amount of leadership. Against Liverpool, and the first 60 or 70 minutes against Spurs, they gave us a great platform to go on and Mitrovic and Ayoze did the job they are supposed to do.
“They came on and made an impact. We said ‘win us the game’, and they did. So that is nice to have. It is a squad game, and sometimes subs are the most important people. You look around that bench and say ‘go on – change the game’ or ‘win us the game’. That’s what they did, so it’s a tough decision (tonight), but quite an easy one for me, I think.”
Meanwhile, Perez says he “respects” McClaren’s decision to leave him on the bench.
“I had to make an impact when I came on – that’s my job,” said the ex-Tenerife forward. “I have to be ready when the manager thinks I should come on, and do it properly.”
“In the Premier League, there are many rotations – I respect that. What I have to do is try to take the minutes I have.”
Perez – a potential January target for Manchester United and Tottenham – has spoken to McClaren about his role.
“I have had some talks,” he said. “He knows what I can give to the team, and if he sees that I’m not at my best, there is no problem to start on the bench. I accept that, but I’m working to return to the team.”
Midfielder Cheick Tiote has recovered from the hamstring problem which has sidelined him for the past month.