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9th Mar, 2017 | 1:03pm

Newcastle expected 4-2-3-1 to face Fulham: Duo axed by Benitez

By Matt Farr

Rafa Benitez is expected to make two changes to his Newcastle side to face Fulham in their upcoming Championship meeting on Saturday.

The Spaniard is expected to welcome attacking duo Dwight Gayle and Christian Atsu back into his starting eleven, following the 0-0 draw with Reading on Tuesday night.

Their return is likely to see Yoan Gouffran and Daryl Murphy drop to the bench, with nine players retaining their places in Benitez’s side.

The Reading draw was not a bad result for Newcastle, but the performance could have been more convincing, and that’s why Benitez is likely to recall two of his most reliable assets.

The duo had both been sidelined through injury in recent weeks, but after making brief cameo appearances against Reading, could be deemed fit to have a larger role against Fulham.

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Benitez is expected to name unchanged defensive and central midfield units, with Jesus Gamez continuing at right-back after his return from a long-term injury.

Meanwhile, Jack Colback is set to retain his place in the midfield alongside Jonjo Shelvey, despite criticism of his recent performances.

Ayoze Perez will continue in the No.10 role for Newcastle, after regaining his place in the side with a series impressive displays.

The combination of Gayle, Atsu and Matt Ritchie, meanwhile, is arguably Newcastle’s most potent attacking force; and that should give the hosts a strong chance of victory as they return to home soil on the back of a three-match run away from home.

A win for the Magpies will see them extend their lead over Brighton up to as many six points, and their lead over third-placed Huddersfield to 12 points.

A Fulham victory, on the other hand, will open the door back up to Brighton in the title race, but would still keep Newcastle in a strong position in their bid for automatic promotion to the Premier League.

In other Newcastle team news, the club have come to a decision over the future of this 22-year-old.

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