By Matt Farr

Rafa Benitez has made two changes to his Newcastle side to face Leeds in the Championship on Friday night.

Newcastle top goalscorer Dwight Gayle is forced to make way from the starting eleven due to a hamstring injury, and he is replaced by Aleksandar Mitrovic.

The 22-year-old is handed the opportunity to impress in Gayle’s absence, with Daryl Murphy able to be called upon from the bench if required.

Isaac Hayden also returns to the starting eleven at the expense of Mo Diame, who drops to the bench following the 2-1 defeat to promotion-chasing Sheffield Wednesday a week ago.

Newcastle announced their confirmed line-up on their official Twitter account ahead of kick-off.

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Jack Colback and DeAndre Yedlin are also back in contention, but they are restricted to a place on the substitutes bench.

Ciaran Clark, meanwhile, is not deemed fit to return, having yet to begin full training with the club following a knee injury. Therefore, Chancel Mbemba retains his place alongside Jamaal Lascelles at the back.

Newcastle begin the clash chasing a five-point deficit behind league leaders Brighton, who are on course to record three points in their match against Wolves, courtesy of Anthony Knockaert’s double.

But they can reduce the gap to just two points with a win over high-flying Leeds, but they will not be in for an easy victory by any means.

Garry Monk’s side have defied all odds this season and emerged as a genuine promotion candidate, and they have suffered just two defeats from their last 10 league games.

Leeds are currently fifth in the table, 12 points behind Newcastle.

In other Newcastle team news, Benitez has revealed he had to beg the club to sign this player.

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