Rafa Benitez addresses his big dilemma as Aleksandar Mitrovic and Daryl Murphy wait on chance

Newcastle striker Daryl Murphy
Newcastle striker Daryl Murphy
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Rafa Benitez is confident that his Newcastle United side can get over the Championship finishing line without Dwight Gayle.

Gayle suffered a hamstring injury in last weekend’s 2-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.

They’ve got a good enough and talented squad to deal with a number of injuries. Whoever plays for them is going to be a very high calibre player for the Championship.

Garry Monk

Benitez is hopeful that the striker will play again this season.

In the meantime, Benitez – whose second-placed side take on Leeds United at St James’s Park tonight – must choose between Aleksandar Mitrovic and Daryl Murphy.

Ayoze Perez and Yoan Gouffran can also play up front.

“Murphy has been doing really well and Mitrovic has been doing well,” said Benitez. “I am happy with my options. I have Gouffran and Ayoze too.”

Gayle has scored 22 goals this season, putting him two behind Leeds’ Chris Wood, who tops the Championship scoring chart.

“The best thing for Gayle is he recovers quickly,” said Benitez. “He has an eye on the golden boot.

“Maybe we can help him by keeping Chris Wood quiet. He’s a strong striker who can win in the air and run and finish.”

Meanwhile, Leeds head coach Garry Monk does not think that Gayle’s absence will weaken Newcastle.

“They’ve got a good enough and talented squad to deal with a number of injuries,” said Monk.

“Whoever plays for them is going to be a very high calibre player for the Championship. Each of them bring their own problems, but ones we’re preparing for.”

Benitez’s side beat Leeds 2-0 at Elland Road in November thanks to two goals from Gayle.

“In the first game we had against Newcastle, it was the first sell-out for a number of years at Elland Road,” said Monk.

“Maybe we played the occasion a little bit and didn’t have our full focus on the football.

“We want to go up there and make sure we don’t make the same mistake. That’s when the players produce their best football.”