Benitez faces Gayle dilemma ahead of Newcastle clash with Aston Villa
Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez faces a big decision over striker Dwight Gayle ahead of Monday night's Sky Bet Championship clash with Aston Villa at St James' Park.
Gayle returned to action as a late substitute in Tuesday night's 2-2 draw at Norwich, playing the final 14 minutes after missing six games with a hamstring injury, and Benitez has to decide if he is ready to start for the first time since January 14.
Midfielder Isaac Hayden is likely to be sidelined for four weeks after undergoing ankle surgery, while a series of other players are nursing minor knocks, but are expected to be fit.
Vurnon Anita (ankle) has returned to training while fellow long-term absentee Rolando Aarons (knee) is closing in on a comeback, but the Villa game will come too soon for him.
Villa boss Steve Bruce will give defensive duo Neil Taylor and James Bree as long as possible to prove their fitness.
The pair are touch and go with Taylor nursing a kick to the ankle he suffered on his debut against Ipswich while Bree has an infected knee.
But Mile Jedinak could return for Villa after missing the last five games with a groin injury with the club without a win since Boxing Day.
Gabby Agbonlahor is out with a hamstring injury he suffered in training last month and is not expected back for Bruce's side for a number of weeks while fellow striker Libor Kozak will miss the rest of the season after undergoing ankle surgery.