By Coral Barry

Steve McClaren is set to be sacked with Rafael Benitez a signature away from being appointed Newcastle boss, Football Insider sources understand.

The long managerial saga is almost over after Benitez agreed terms with the northern club and is in line to be in charge in time for Newcastle’s league visit to leaders Leicester.

A well-placed source has told Football Insider that Benitez is to replace McClaren, who will be axed in the next 24 hours in the wake of a relegation threatening run of results that has left the club second from bottom of the Premier League.

The former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager is expected to sign a three-year deal, although it is not known if it will include a clause that he leaves if the club are demoted to the Championship.

The Newcastle board, led by managing director Lee Charnley, has had several meetings this week as they decided on the future of McClaren and the club.

The top brass at St James’ Park are now confident they have found a suitable replacement for McClaren in Benitez.

McClaren is expected to be summoned to a meeting with Charnley on Thursday and told that his eight-month tenure is finished.

Newcastle chiefs are hopeful that by acting now they can stop the terrifying decline that has left the club staring the Championship in the face.

Dark days: McClaren is struggling to turn around Newcastle situation

Time’s up: McClaren will be told of dismissal on Thursday

The 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth at the weekend was the third successive loss for the Magpies, but Newcastle are still just two points from safety with ten games left.

Benitez has the calibre and track record to arrest the decline and get the best out of an underperforming squad that is rated as one of the best in the second half of the Premier League table.

McClaren has taken training in the last two days although the former England manager has told friends that he expects to be axed by the club.

Reports have indicated that the Newcastle players have already moved on from McClaren although the Magpies have strongly denied this.

In other Newcastle news, it is alleged that the Magpies will have to make some serious concessions to capture Benitez’s signature and Twitter cannot believe the three months Benitez has been having.