By Will Butcher

Rafa Benitez has revealed that Newcastle’s top scorer Dwight Gayle is a “big doubt” for Saturday’s clash against Preston.

The former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager also revealed that defender Chancel Mbemba is doubtful too after picking up a “small problem” against Preston during Tuesday night’s EFL Cup win.

Quoting Benitez on his personal Twitter account, Shields Gazette reporter Miles Starforth revealed that Jack Colback has definitely been ruled out after picking up a head injury.

Former Crystal Palace forward Gayle is expected to be replaced by midweek hero Aleksander Mitrovic, after the Serbia international scored a superb brace in the Toon’s 6-0 win.

Congo international Mbemba started against Preston on Tuesday after being kept out of the side for the last seven league and cup encounters.

Colback, who used to ply his trade for Sunderland, was withdrawn in the 32nd minute by Benitez after a vicious clash of heads with Preston midfielder Alan Browne that saw the latter receive his marching orders.

Arsenal academy graduate Isaac Hayden is likely to come in for the flame-haired midfielder, as a like-for-like replacement.

Three points for a patched up Toon could see them stretch their lead at the top of the Championship to six points, if Norwich lose to beat Brighton away from home.

However, they must be wary after Preston boss Simon Grayson has revealed that his Lancashire-based side will be looking for revenge.

In other Newcastle team news, Christian Atsu has revealed how he has put to bed his nightmare injury past.