Rafa Benitez makes TWO changes for Newcastle's game against Birmingham

Jonjo Shelvey

Jonjo Shelvey

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Rafa Benitez has named his Newcastle United starting XI for this afternoon's home game against Birmingham City.

Benitez's second-placed side are looking to return to the top of the Championship with a win over Gary Rowett's fifth-placed team (3pm kick-off).

Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett are free to play after their red cards from last Friday night's 2-1 defeat to Nottingham Forest were rescinded by hte Football Association on appeal.

READ MORE: Rafa Benitez looking to 'balance' his Newcastle squad in January transfer window

United manager Benitez, without Ayoze Perez because of illness, has recalled Vurnon Anita and Mohamed Diame to his starting XI.

St James's Park is sold out, with Birmingham having sold their 3,000-seat allocation.

Brighton and Hove Albion lead the division by two points following last night's win over Leeds United at the Amex Stadium.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Darlow; Anita, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Shelvey, Hayden; Richie, Diame, Gouffran; Gayle. Subs: Sels, Yedlin, Lazaar, Mbemba, Tiote, Atsu, Mitrovic.

BIRMINGHAM CITY: Kuszczak; Dacres-Cogley, Morrison, Shotton, Grounds; Tesche, Gleeson; Stewart, Adams, Cotterill; Donaldson. Subs: Legzdins, Robinson, Keitenebld, Jutkiewicz, Solomon-Otabor, Brown, O'Keefe.

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