Jonjo Shelvey and Dwight Gayle on Newcastle bench, Daryl Murphy starts

Dwight Gayle
Dwight Gayle
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Jonjo Shelvey and Dwight Gayle are on Newcastle United's bench at St Andrew's this afternoon.

Championship leaders Newcastle United take on 17th-placed Birmingham City looking to stretch their lead at the top of the Championship (3pm kick-off).

And midfielder Shelvey has been left out of the starting XI following a bout of illness in midweek.

READ MORE: Rafa Benitez reveals why Chancel Mbemba hasn’t played for Newcastle this year

Mohamed Diame will drop deeper to play in Shelvey's position, while Ayoze Perez will be United's No 10.

Leading scorer Gayle, still not 100% fit after his recent injury lay-off, is also among the substitutes.

Daryl Murphy

Daryl Murphy

Daryl Murphy will play up front for Newcastle, who lead the division by goal difference.

"If we play at the level we normally play," said United manager Benitez.

"I don’t mind if we are home or away. We can compare them because we are doing so well away. It’s strange, but hopefully we can improve at home.

"Birmingham change their system sometimes, with four or five at the back as Gianfranco (Zola) tries to find solutions to their problems.

"It’s a tough game, because they are changing and look more solid now."

Second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion play Leeds United at Elland Road this evening, while third-placed Huddersfield Town were beaten 4-0 by Bristol City last night.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Darlow; Anita, Hanley, Lascelles, Dummett; Diame, Colback; Ritchie, Perez, Gouffran; Murphy. Subs: Elliot, Gamez, Mbemba, Shelvey, Atsu, Gayle, Mitrovic.

BIRMINGHAM CITY: Kuszczak; Bielik, Shotton, Robinson; Nsue, Tesche, Kieftenbeld, Davis, Gardner, Grounds; Jutkiewicz. Subs: Legzdins, Gleeson, Donaldson, Adams, Maghoma, Frei, Dacres-Cogley.

For news and updates from St Andrew's, follow NUFC writer Miles Starforth on Twitter here