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Have Newcastle dropped starting XI hint v Preston with programme cover?

By Will Butcher

Newcastle could have potentially dropped a starting line-up hint after placing Chelsea loan star Christian Atsu on the cover of their match programme.

Rafa Benitez’s side face Preston on Tuesday in the fourth round of the EFL Cup as they look to stretch their winning streak to six consecutive matches, after Saturday’s superb 3-0 win against Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich.

The Toon’s official Twitter account revealed that Ghana international Atsu was on the cover of the official matchday programme, despite starting just two games all season.

Former Everton and Bournemouth loanee Atsu came off the bench for just 15 minutes on Saturday, as Ayoze Perez inspired the Magpies to a comfortable victory.

Atsu, who moved to St. James’ Park this summer from Chelsea in what is his fifth loan spell of his career, has struggled to hold down a regular starting place with the North East outfit possessing an abundance of attacking talent.

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The likes of Yoann Gouffran, Matt Ritchie, Dwight Gayle, Achraf Lazaar and Perez are all vying for a place in Benitez’s starting 11.

Benitez, 56, will be hoping to secure his 15th win as Newcastle manager in just 25 league and cup encounters, as he looks to rotate his squad once again to face Simon Grayson’s side.

In other Newcastle team news, this long-term absentee could be in line to start for the Toon after recovering from a knee injury.