After Saturday’s dismal display at Sheffield Wednesday, the Magpies will be looking to get back to winning ways as we welcome Gary Monk’s Leeds United to St. James’ Park tonight.
Saturday’s game at Hillsborough was a setback, not only halting our push for promotion but seeing us fall two points behind Brighton in the race for the Championship title.
Tonight’s game therefore provides the ideal setting to put things right, with a packed out crowd, ferocious atmosphere and a feisty encounter offering the sort of occasion our players and fans alike should thrive on.
Leeds will be looking to strengthen their grip on a play off place and will fancy taking something away from SJP given Newcastle’s shaky home form. Rafa will no doubt be wary of Leeds target man Chris Wood, who is a real handful up front and the top scorer in the division with 24 goals.
Dwight Gayle will miss out following a reoccurrence of his hamstring problems in Saturday’s game at Hillsborough, opening the door for Daryl Murphy and Aleksandar Mitrovic who will be pushing for a start tonight in his absence.
DeAndre Yedlin has an outside chance of making a timely return to the side, with the American back in contention after several weeks out with a thigh problem. Ciaran Clark has also been deemed ‘very, very close’ to making his comeback but tonight’s game will come too soon for the Irishman.
The fitness of Jack Colback (Virus) and Isaac Hayden (Ankle) continues to be monitored, with the midfield duo missing the last two matches.
For the visitors, Liam Bridcutt and Hadi Sacko are in contention to make a return to the Leeds side. Bridcutt (Achilles) missed last week’s home win over Preston, while Sacko’s ankle problems have seen him miss their last two games.
Leeds will be without centre-back, Liam Cooper, who will serve the third game of his six-match ban tonight.
Newcastle United – (4-2-3-1) – Darlow – Anita, Lascelles, Hanley, Dummett – Shelvey, Diame – Ritchie, Perez, Gouffran – Mitrovic.
Leeds United – (4-2-3-1) – Green – Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Beradi – Birdcutt, Vieira – Roofe, Hernandez, Alfonso – Wood
TWO changes from Sheffield Wednesday?
Mbemba OUT Hanley IN: Mbemba really struggled in Saturday’s defeat to Sheffield Wednesday. He was caught out on several occasions and looked off the pace. Newcastle will be dealing with the leagues top scorer tonight in Chris Wood, who is not only a physical presence but a mean finisher. I expect Rafa to recall the sturdy, no nonsense Grant Hanley for this one in an attempt to shore up the Magpies back line.
Gayle OUT Mitrovic IN: Gayle looks set for a spell on the sidelines, leaving Murphy and Mitrovic vying for a place in the side. While Murphy has often been Benitez’s more trusted option, I believe Mitrovic will get the nod tonight. He has earned his chance after making a big impact on the game when brought on against Sheffield Wednesday and I expect Murphy to start against his former club, Ipswich, on Monday.
Really tough one to call with so much at stake. Leeds were comfortable winners in their last game at home to Preston but have also lost their previous two away games. Newcastle have proved erratic at home this season but with the pressure on, I fancy them to sneak through.
Howay the lads!