By Russell Edge

Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez is expected to ring the changes for Preston North End’s visit to St James’ Park, which could see the Magpies mathematically secure promotion.

The promotion hopefuls are coming off the back of a disappointing 3-1 defeat away to Ipswich Town and Rafa Benitez will have concerns with what he saw at Portman Road.

The manager made five changes to his line up for that game, and it is expected he will chop and change yet again.

Ciaran Clark could return to the Newcastle team after missing out through injury, replacing Grant Hanley in what will be a welcome boost for Benitez’s side.

The Spanish manager is also expected to drop Mo Diame, Christian Atsu and Daryl Murphy, bringing Ayoze Perez, Yoan Gouffran and Aleksandr Mitrovic to the starting XI.

Top scorer Dwight Gayle is unlikely to be risked after picking up a hamstring injury against Sheffield Wednesday, whilst Rolando Aarons is nearing a comeback after suffering a ruptured achilles earlier in the season.

Karl Darlow and the back four will be hoping to keep their 18th clean sheet of the season.

Up front, Aleksandr Mitrovic will be looking to score his first goal for the club since a 1-0 away to Wolves in February.

Benitez is likely to continue with a midfield duo of Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden, who has gone straight back into the side since returning from injury.

The Magpies will mathematically secure automatic promotion if they pick up three points and Huddersfield lose on Saturday.

In other Newcastle transfer news, the club are lining up a move for a 25-year-old Premier League defender.

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