COMMENT By Will Butcher
Rafa Benitez should make three attacking changes to his Newcastle starting XI as the Toon face Birmingham on Saturday.
The Magpies have failed to taste victory in their last three league and cup outings, after losses to Blackburn and Nottingham Forest as well as being dumped out of the EFL Cup by Hull.
A reshuffle in the attacking department will do the trick against Gary Rowett’s playoff chasing Birmingham, as the Toon look to consolidate their place at the top of the Championship.
Matt Ritchie, Ayoze Perez and Dwight Gayle should all make way against a Birmingham side that have defied pre-season expectations to sit in fifth.
Christian Atsu, Mohamed Diame and Aleksander Mitrovic would provide a freshness to Benitez’s attack, as the north-east outfit eye their 14th Championship win of the season.
Top scorer Gayle has failed to find the back of the net in Newcastle’s last three outings. With a player of Serbia international Mitrovic’s calibre on the bench, Benitez should give his number 45 a chance to lead the attack.
Despite a slow start to his Tyneside career, Diame is held in high regard by Newcastle’s fans and would shine if given the chance behind Mitrovic at St. James’ Park on Saturday.
Additionally, on-loan Chelsea winger Christian Atsu has caught the eye when given a chance on the left side of Newcastle’s attack.
Starting the Ghana international instead of Matt Ritchie would add pace to the the Toon’s attack, with Yoann Gouffran moving to the right flank in place of Ritchie.
With Birmingham losing just four games all season, Newcastle will face an uphill task to grab all three points.
However, with these changes in attack, an unpredictability in the Toon side will worry the Blues’ defence.
A win for Benitez and his side will see them go four points clear at the top of the Championship table, if Leeds secure victory against second placed Brighton on Friday night.
In other Newcastle team news, these two players are available despite receiving their marching orders.