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Newcastle United will travel to the St. Andrew’s this weekend as they gear up to take on 17th placed Birmingham City in the Matchweek 38 of the EFL SkyBet Championship.
Rafael Benitez’s side will come into the game after having suffered a minor setback last weekend, having lost 1-3 at home against Fulham. They will be aware that a poor result against the Blues could see them being displaced from the top of the table if results elsewhere go against them. Newcastle have faced Birmingham on three occasions this season, thrashing them 4-0 in the Championship back in December, then playing out a 1-1 draw in the third round of the FA Cup, before beating them 3-1 in the replay.
Midfielder Isaac Hayden is closer to a return, but Saturday will come a little too soon for him to be ready. Other than Hayden, right-back DeAndre Yedlin has also been ruled out of for a period of five weeks due to muscle tear, while Rolando Aarons remains a long-term absentee.
The 26-year old will continue between the sticks for Newcastle. Will look for a better performance after having let in three goals against Fulham.
With Yedlin unavailable, we could see Vurnon Anita continue at right-back, ahead of Jesus Gamez. The Dutchman was given a hard time by Ryan Sessegnon last weekend but will hope to put in a solid display.
At the heart of the defence will be Jamaal Lascelles. The captain had a poor outing against Fulham and made some high-profile errors. Expect him to bounce back from the shocker.
Alongside Lascelles, we expect Ciaran Clark to hold his place. The Irishman was hauled off against Fulham due to injury concerns, but we expect him to be fit and available for the Birmingham clash.
At left-back, Paul Dummett will continue in the playing XI. He put in one of his worst displays against Fulham and will be hoping to bounce back this Saturday.
In the middle of the park, it will be Newcastle’s architect-in-chief Jonjo Shelvey. The former Liverpool man will be key for the Magpies to get a positive result at the St. Andrews.
Alongside Shelvey, we expect Jack Colback to continue as Isaac Hayden is still on the road to regaining full fitness.
Matt Ritchie will continue playing wide on the right. He will be a threat to the Birmingham defence with his surging runs and trickery on the ball.
Through the middle, we expect a change with Ayoze Perez tipped to replace the highly ineffective Mohamed Diame, who struggled against Fulham.
On the left-flank, we believe Christian Atsu will hold on to his place ahead of Yoan Gouffran. The Chelsea loanee assisted the only goal for Newcastle against Fulham and will look to build on it.
And leading the line will be Newcastle’s leading goalscorer Dwight Gayle. The 21-goal man had an off-colour game against Fulham but expect him to come back strongly.