Newcastle United briefing: Why Gianfranco Zola is 'angry' – and Steven Taylor STILL doesn't like Sunderland

Ciaran Clark
Ciaran Clark
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Who's in? And who's out?

Rafa Benitez will face the media today ahead of Newcastle United's visit to St Andrew's.

The Championship leaders take on struggling Birmingham City tomorrow looking to stay ahead of second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion, who are at Leeds United.

Third-placed Huddersfield Town, meanwhile, could close the gap on the top two to three points with a win over Bristol City at Ashton Gate tonight.

Here's your daily briefing:

Meet the Press

Steven Taylor

Steven Taylor

Benitez will hold his media call at 1pm at the club's training ground.

And United's manager – who has lost DeAndre Yedlin for five weeks – will give an update injuries.

Defensive pair Ciaran Clark (knee) and Paul Dummett (heel) are concerns for Benitez, whose side lead second-placed Brighton on goal difference.

Benitez will also reflect on last weekend's 3-1 home defeat to Fulham.

The result followed three impressive performances away from home that yielded a total of seven points.

If Newcastle's form at St James's Park matched that away from home, the club would be a lot closer to the Premier League.

Benitez's side looked tired against Fulham.

And maybe owner Mike Ashley should have listened to Benitez in January.

For his part, Benitez has a "clear" idea of what he and his players need to do.

Mr Angry

It hasn't exactly gone to plan for Birmingham since they sacked Gary Rowett and replaced him with Gianfranco Zola.

The club was seventh in the Championship when Rowett was surprisingly axed.

Three months and two wins later, Birmingham are 17th in the division, and Zola – who has previously managed West Ham United and Watford – is "angry".

Speaking ahead of the Newcastle game, Zola said: “I have got a lot of anger inside. Too many players are hiding, but I’m not going to hide from my responsibilities.

"This is an ambitious club that deserves better.

“If some of the supporters feel the manager needs to change. I totally understand that, I don’t want to consider it now. It is not that I want to change. I am responsible and I want to do the right thing.

“The fans are staying behind us. They are staying behind me. So far I haven’t given them what I promised to give them. We need to change, otherwise they are going to change us.”

And finally

Steven Taylor doesn't like Sunderland. And the former Newcastle defender knows the feeling is mutual.

The defender, now at Ipswich Town, has given some candid answers in a Sky Bet EFL Q&A with the Daily Mail.

Asked what was his least favourite ground, Taylor said: "Sunderland. It's a horrible place.

"People know the situation between me and Sunderland. They don't like me, I don't like them. It's unfortunate but that's how it is. It's always going to be like that. I'm never going to change my opinion on them, but I will look forward to it if I get the chance to play against Sunderland again.

It's great. I thrive on it. The hatred is what I love about playing against them, especially having 46,000 Mackems hate you as much as they do. It's great, and I hate them. That's just how it is. I think you'll see that if we play them."

Read more from Taylor's interview here.

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