By Will Butcher

Rafa Benitez has revealed that Aleskander Mitrovic is working hard on the Newcastle training ground as he looks to earn a first-team slot.

The Serbia international has failed to hold down a regular starting spot in Benitez’s side this season as top scorer Dwight Gayle continues to excel as the Toon’s attacking spearhead.

Speaking to the Shields Gazette, Benitez revealed that Mitrovic is maturing every day but needs to improve a few areas of his game if he is to either partner or replace Gayle.

“He is a good professional,” Benitez told the Shields Gazette. “He wants to be fit, he wants to train harder. He knows Dwight is scoring goals and he has to keep going and wait for his chance.

“I think every day he is more mature. He has realised how difficult it is to be in a team that is doing well. He needs to keep working and improve little things. He is open now to do all of these things. ”

With Gayle ahead of the former Anderlecht forward in the pecking order, Mitrovic has made just six appearances for the Toon this season.

Of his six appearances, Newcastle’s number 45 has started just two of those, with one start coming against League Two minnows Cheltenham Town in the EFL Cup.

His solitary goal for Benitez’s side came against QPR, as Newcastle completed a 6-0 rout over Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s London-based outfit.

Mitrovic will be hoping to prove his worth as Newcastle look to maintain their position at the summit of the Championship table with a win against Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich.

In other Newcastle team news, Benitez has revealed a scouting mission on this international midfielder.