By Dominic Toner
Rafa Benitez is set to reshuffle the starting line-up for Newcastle’s EFL second-round tie against Cheltenham and hand Aleksandar Mitrovic his first game of the season.
Mitrovic, 21, has been suspended for the first four matches of the season following his red card against Tottenham in the final league game of last campaign.
Benitez has told the Chronicle that Mitrovic is set to return to first-team action and is likely to play against Cheltenham.
“We’ll change players but we must be convinced we can win,” Benitez said. “Mitro is important, he is a different options & gives physicality. Mitrovic must be calm & controlled & then we can see lots of goals. He is likely to play vs Cheltenham.”
Newcastle picked up their second consecutive victory in the Championship against Bristol City, courtesy of a Dwight Gayle goal that was the difference between the two sides.
Benitez has revealed that he will be forced to make changes to the side that conquered Bristol City following three games in just six days.
The domestic cup competition will provide Benitez the opportunity to get a look at some of his fringe players and Karl Darlow is likely to replace current number one Matz Sels in goal.
Benitez is yet to settle on his preferred defensive set-up and is likely to continue his experimenting with several changes in the backline, with Grant Hanley, Daryl Janmaat and Paul Dummett possibly being introduced to the side after missing out against Bristol City.
West Brom announced the signing of Newcastle target Brendan Galloway on Monday, meaning Dummett could now stay at St James Park despite speculation that he could be leaving for the Baggies.
Jack Colback and Jonjo Shelvey could fill the central midfield positions for Newcastle, with the latter only making a late cameo appearance in the last league match.
Benitez is likely to introduce Ayoze Perez and Rolando Aarons to his attacking trio, with £12million signing Matt Ritchie regaining his starting spot after losing his place earlier in the season against Huddersfield.
That will leave Serbian striker Mitrovic to spearhead the Newcastle attack and he will hope to mark his return with a goal against the League Two outfit Cheltenham.
Mitrovic has sccored nine goals for Newcastle in just 36 appearances across all competitions, since moving to St James’ Park last summer.
The trio of Clark, Colback and Ritchie are likely to retain their places as Benitez will look to keep some familiar faces in the side.
In other Newcastle team news, their striker has revealed why he rejected a move to a Championship club last year.