Birmingham City will be looking to put an end to their poor form as they host Newcastle United in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.
Gianfranco Zola is still searching for his first win since taking over from Gary Rowett in early December. His side have slipped to 13th place in The Championship with the visitors sitting in second place behind leaders Brighton & Hove Albion.
Birmingham are without a win in four games. Their last victory came over Ipswich at St Andrew’s on December 13 where The Blues secured a 2-1 win over The Tractor Boys. Since then, Zola’s men have fell to two defeats against Brighton and Derby respectively.
On New Years Eve, City managed to battle back from 2-0 down against Barnsley to draw the game 2-2 at Oakwell but tasted defeat just two days later when they lost 3-1 to Brentford. One positive for The Blues is that striker Lukas Jutkiewicz is on good goal scoring form with three goals in his last four games.
Newcastle have suffered a blip in form in recent weeks and have struggled to deal with the absence of Jonjo Shelvey. The Magpies have suffered two defeats in their last four games. United ran out victorious in their trips to Wigan Athletic and Burton Albion in the lead up to Christmas before suffering a 1-0 defeat at home to Sheffield Wednesday on Boxing Day.
Rafael Benitez’ men recovered well, earning a 3-1 victory over Nottingham Forest but lost again at Ewood Park three days later despite dominating the game. Newcastle ended year top of the league but have slipped to second - two points behind leaders Brighton who also have a game in hand over The Magpies.
Both sides are effected by the African Cup of Nations tournament with Jacques Maghoma in Gabon ahead of the tournament for the hosts and Mohamed Diame, Christian Atsu and Chancel Mbemba all unavailable for the visitors.
Blues striker Clayton Donaldson remains out due to a torn calf tendon, however Paul Caddis and Diego Fabbrini could both feature having played in the Under-23’s friendly against Coventry City Under-23’s on Tuesday with the pair getting an hour under their belts as they recover from injuries.
With Jutkiewicz playing almost every minute over the festive period, one time Newcastle target, Che Adams could be set to start in a lone striker role. Goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak is likely to drop out of the side with Adam Legzdins starting between the sticks.
United will be without Jonjo Shelvey once again as he sits out the fourth of his five-match ban. Knocks for Grant Hanley and Jesus Gamez are expected to keep them out of the tie and a long-term injury to Rolando Aarons continues to keep him sidelined.
Benitez has a huge squad at his disposal and his side will almost certainly include changes from the side who suffered defeat at Blackburn on Monday. DeAndre Yedlin is likely to come in for Vurnon Anita while it is unclear whether the Spaniard will stick with Dwight Gayle as a loan striker given Diame’s departure to the African Cup of Nations. Benitez seems to be a fan of Ayoze Perez who could fill the void left by the Senegalese international.
Aleksander Mitrovic’s situation at the club remains unclear and United could opt to go with Daryl Murphy who was selected ahead of the Serbian at Ewood Park. Rob Elliott is back in training, however Matz Sels is likely to be given the start ahead of the Irish international. Achraf Lazaar has been told to be on “standby” and could also feature at some point.
History of the meeting
Newcastle ran out 4-0 winners over Birmingham at St James' Park in December and The Blues haven’t managed to beat United in either of their previous five meetings.
Birmingham’s last victory over Newcastle was in the same round of the competition in 2007 where they brushed aside The Magpies in a 5-1 victory at St James’ Park.
You have to go back to 2000 for the last time Birmingham beat The Tynesider’s on home soil.
Birmingham wins: 4
Newcastle wins: 9