By Harry Sykes

Jamaal Lascelles has claimed Newcastle need as many “dedicated” players as possible for their promotion challenge.

Rafael Benitez’s Championship favourites host Norwich at St James’ Park on Wednesday in a match billed as the clash of the season in the division to date.

Alex Neil’s team dropped to second in the table after Huddersfield won on Tuesday night but can regain top spot if they triumph at Newcastle.

The north-east giants will climb from ninth to fourth if they are able to claim their sixth league victory of the season.

Lascelles, who is set to start against Norwich, was appointed skipper at the start of the season after impressing with his leadership skills at the end of last season and is enjoying his new role.

The centre-back says morale is “miles better” than last season as he outlined the type of player needed to mount a strong promotion challenge.

“I’m very comfortable being captain,” Lascelles said, as quoted by the Chronicle. “I’m outspoken and will say what needs to be said. You can’t just have players with talent and flair. You need to make sure players are dedicated and are putting a shift in too.”

A month in, he is finding it enjoyable. “It is a big responsibility. As an individual I’ve got to stay positive all the time, even if I want to lose my head or whatever or get angry.

“I’m only 22 but the other lads do look up to me and you’ve got to stay positive. It is a big responsibility, but I’m a big enough character to deal with it. All the lads are backing me.

“On the pitch I’m not the only one with a voice. We’ve got some big characters on the pitch who are helping me.”

In other Newcastle news, this is the best possible Magpies XI to face Norwich on Wednesday night.