By Amir Mir

Rafa Benitez could make four changes to his Newcastle starting XI after they were knocked out of the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup by Hull on Tuesday night.

The Championship leaders travel to Nottingham Forest on Friday evening with their opponents coming off back-to-back wins.

Mo Diame, Achraf Lazaar, Mats Sels and Vurnon Anita could be dropped to the bench after the Magpies played 120 minutes in midweek, before being dumped out on penalties.

It means Ayoze Perez, Paul Dummett, Karl Darlow and DeAndre Yedlin might return, with the latter coming on at extra-time in midweek.

Striker Dwight Gayle, who is the top-scorer in the Championship with 13 goals, is likely to lead the line for Benitez’s side.

It means playmaker Perez could play in behind the former Crystal Palace man, with Matt Ritchie and Yoan Gouffran on the flanks.

Former Swansea and Liverpool player Jonjo Shelvey has arguably been the best midfielder in the second tier this season.

Therefore, he could start on Friday night, with his midfield battle against Forest captain Henri Lansbury expected to be tasty after the former Arsenal man hit a hat-trick during the 5-2 drubbing of Barnsley last time out.

In defence, the reliable centre-back pairing of Ciaran Clark and Jamaal Lascelles might lead the defensive back line once more, with Dummett and Yedlin as full-backs.

Goalkeeper Darlow, who has started the last nine Championship games while keeping four clean sheets, might start between the sticks ahead of Sels.

In other Newcastle team news, winger Matt Ritchie has provided an honest verdict on his form for the club.