Newcastle United’s brilliant stay at the top of the Championship table finally ended this week as they went down against Blackburn Rovers yet again in their domestic league clash. They now trail Brighton by two points who also have a game in hand.
The Magpies next face Birmingham City in the FA Cup fixture and Rafa Benitez would definitely want his team to get back to winning ways as soon as possible. Birmingham haven’t had the best of the seasons so far as they are struggling in the 15th position and their last meeting with Newcastle ended with a 4-0 humiliation for the Blues.
Although Benitez’s side will undoubtedly be the favourites to win the fixture, Newcastle haven’t been very fortunate in knockout fixtures this season. They saw themselves getting ousted by Hull City in the EFL Cup on penalties and upsets are in the very nature of Cup games.
Benitez will have his all his first team players at the back for the trip to Birmingham. Karl Darlow will start under the bar.
The left defensive flank of Newcastle United will be taken by Paul Dummett. He has been an absolute rock for the Magpies in that area and Benitez will expect a good performance from him. The right flank should be taken by Vurnon Anita. The Dutch international has been one of the most assuring and composed figures for Newcastle United at the back.
The central defensive positions will be taken by Ciaran Clark and Jamaat Lascelles. The duo has been brilliant this season and probably Benitez’s most trusted generals on the field.
Jonjo Shelvey has obviously been a huge miss for Newcastle’s midfield in the last few matches but Benitez still has the likes of Isaac Hayden and Colback in the central midfield, who could hold the pivot position steady for the Magpies.
Yoan Gouffran and Matt Ritchie are likely to start on the flanks. They have been tremendously impactful from the wings. Ritchie has four goals and six assists so far in the league and Gouffran has four goals and four assists. The huge amount of chances created by the duo is one of the main reasons for Newcastle’s success so far from the wide areas.
Mo Diame and Dwight Gayle started the last match against Blackburn Rovers and given how consistent Benitez has been in rotating his forwards, we expect Ayoze Perez to start as a centre forward behind Aleksandar Mitrovic.