Rafa Benitez mulls over FA Cup return for Newcastle’s Jonjo Shelvey

Jonjo Shelvey is available for the midweek FA Cup tie against Birmingham. Picture by Frank Reid
Jonjo Shelvey is available for the midweek FA Cup tie against Birmingham. Picture by Frank Reid

Rafa Benitez is yet to decide if Jonjo Shelvey will be involved in Newcastle United’s FA Cup replay.

Shelvey will be free to play in Wednesday night’s tie against Birmingham City after serving a five-game ban for using racially-aggravated language towards an opponent.

Newcastle have missed Shelvey during his enforced absence, and the midfielder could top up his fitness in the third-round replay at St James’s Park.

However, United manager Benitez won’t decide on his involvement until the eve of the game.

“Jonjo is fine,” said Benitez. “This week he will finish his suspension. He has been training really well.

“He was training even harder. We had a specific plan for him to improve him physically.

“In the last (fitness) test, he was even better than before.

“We will see if we have to use him or not (against Birmingham).

“I will say that he’s been training well and physically the team is well.”

Newcastle have lost two of the three Championship games they have played without Shelvey.

“I was a little bit disappointed,” said Benitez.

“The team was doing well. Because of his technical qualities, he can make the difference with a pass or whatever. I think we did enough to win against Blackburn.

“If you play 99 times (like that) you will win. I think we’ve been a little bit unlucky.

“We’re missing Jonjo in terms of the style of football and the way that he plays, but we knew before it could be like this.”