COMMENT By Harvey Byrne
Newcastle could make four changes for Wednesday’s FA Cup third-round replay against Birmingham.
The north east giants are preparing to host their Championship rivals at St James’ Park after a 1-1 draw at St Andrews.
Forward Daryl Murphy opened the scoring on that day and is expected to come back into the side with star forwards Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic injured.
Meanwhile, Rafa Benitez is also expected to welcome back Jonjo Shelvey to his team with the midfielder’s five-match ban coming to an end on the weekend.
Injuries and the AFCON have not helped the experienced Spanish manager heading into the tie with Mitrovic, Gayle, Rolando Aarons, Mohamed Diame, Christian Atsu and Chancel Mbemba all unavailable.
However, he can still name a strong side with Murphy and Shelvey to come into the side alongside Matz Sels and Grant Hanley.
This will then result in Karl Darlow, Ciaran Clark, Hayden and Gayle all dropping out of the side following the 2-1 win over Brentford.
Sels was brought in during the summer to become the club’s new number one, but he ended up losing his place to Darlow earlier in the campaign.
He is now considered the designated cup goalkeeper and is expected to start between the sticks on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Hanley is the only player to come into the back four with captain Jamaal Lascelles keeping his place alongside DeAndre Yedlin and Paul Dummett.
They will likely be protected by the experienced Shelvey and tireless midfielder Jack Colback in the centre of the park.
As well as protecting the defence, they will also be looking to supply an unchanged front three, consisting of Matt Ritchie, Ayoze Perez and Yoan Gouffran.
The trio can all prove devastating on their days and forward Murphy will be looking to profit from their talents.
Summer signing Murphy scored his second goal for the club after coming off the bench on the weekend and he will be keen to take his chance in midweek.
The Magpies will face League One outfit Oxford if they get past Birmingham and they will be keen to go as far as possible in the competition.
In other Newcastle team news, Benitez has identified what impressed him in the win over Brentford.