Newcastle United got back to the summit of the Championship table once again as they saw off a poor Birmingham City side with a thumping 4-0 win.
The Magpies’ perfect run had gone haywire after they lost three consecutive games in a week, which ended with two of their first team players being red-carded in the match against Nottingham Forest and Newcastle falling to a late strike.
But in a rare scenario, Newcastle successfully appealed suspensions of Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett having both the players available for the crucial home match last weekend. Although Shelvey still might face a separate FA disciplinary after he allegedly racially abused Wolves Moroccan star Romain Saiss. A hearing will be organised later this month and he might serve a 5-match suspension if found guilty.
Newcastle United next visit Wigan Athletic in the midweek, who have really struggled to hold on this season so far. They are lurking in the 23rd place and the Magpies are the likely favourites for this game to further cement their position at the top.
Rafa was delighted to have his regular four for the match and they were ruthless in their jobs. Birmingham players were hardly given space to work their way as Newcastle challenged for every ball.
Benitez will undoubtedly stick with the same back four. Dummett will start on the left-back position with Vurnon Anita at right-back. The side backs had a tremendous game with both often looking dangerous on the offensive and they will look for a similar display when they visit Wigan.
The central defensive duo will be Ciaran Clark and Jamaal Lascelles as has always been this season. Clark looked solid in the last match as he saw his fierce header getting saved by former Manchester United keeper Kuszcazk. He has looked quite dangerous from set-pieces this season.
Getting Shelvey back at the heart of the midfield was a delight. It was his delightful cross from the right that that gave Dwight Gayle his third goal of the match. He is really the engine of the team. He will start alongside Isaac Hayden.
Hayden’s cross was deflected and fell kindly on Gayle’s feet, who slotted it home in the last fixture. The former Arsenal man has been a crucial player for Benitez this season. The flanks will be taken by Yoan Gouffran and Matt Ritchie.
Gayle is the club’s top scorer at the moment with a whopping 16 goals so far. Benitez isn’t expected to overplay him unless it’s needed. He is expected to rotate the front two as he always does. We expect Ayoze Perez and Aleksandar Mitrovic to start the game.