RAFAEL BENITEZ has confirmed Jack Colback and Jamie Sterry will be allowed to leave Newcastle United next month, but Aleksandar Mitrovic’s future will be determined by the Magpies manager’s ability to bring in a new centre-forward before the transfer window closes.

Colback is available for sale after having been frozen out of the first-team picture completely, although the midfielder’s £70,000-a-week pay packet could make it difficult for Newcastle to move him out on a permanent basis.

Sterry is set to leave St James’ Park on loan, with a number of Championship clubs already having inquired about his availability.

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Mitrovic also wants to head through the exit door, and the striker gave an interview to a number of Serbian media outlets this week in which he confirmed his desire to call time on his Newcastle career. With his only start this season having come in the EFL Cup, the striker fears for his place in Serbia’s World Cup squad unless he is able to secure regular first-team football in the second half of the campaign.

Benitez understands his frustration, but will not be allowing him to leave unless he has a replacement in place. The Newcastle manager has already been priced out of a move for Turkey international Cenk Tosun, and while he has inquired about a possible loan move for Liverpool duo Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings, his transfer plans will remain up in the air until Mike Ashley is able to provide some guarantees about the size of his January budget.

“January is a difficult time, especially for players who are not playing and also have the World Cup,” said Benitez. “They want to play. But we have the same situation where we approach teams and sometimes we can sign, sometimes we cannot.

“We have Sterry and Colback who can go, that is very clear. Sterry would probably be a loan. The rest of the players, it depends on what is happening in the market. If we don’t move forward then maybe everyone has to stay.”

Newcastle play their final game of 2017 against Brighton this afternoon, and while Wednesday’s defeat to league leaders Manchester City was something of an irrelevance in terms of the Magpies’ survival prospects, today’s game could have much wider-reaching repercussions.

As things stand, Newcastle trail Chris Hughton’s Brighton side by three points, and Benitez admits it will be imperative to take points from the teams in the bottom half of the table in the second half of the campaign.

“It’s an opportunity to do well,” he said. “If you want to stay in the Premier League, you have to get results against teams close to you. We know that, they know that. You have to approach a game like this with confidence, but if you don’t do well, you have to go again against Stoke and then Swansea.

“We know our level and what we want, and against which teams we can really compete. We have to try to win these games because some games are more winnable than others.”

With that in mind, Benitez continues to make no excuses for the way in which he asked his side to play as they lost to the runaway league leaders on Wednesday night.

“I didn't hear any criticism from my players,” he said. “We are managers, we take responsibility for our decisions. We were nearly there (against City).

“Imagine if we scored a late goal, everyone would be saying, ‘Fantastic, perfect’. I've seen a lot of teams doing the same against Manchester City and nobody was criticising them.

“I was pleased with the performance of my players and the way they tried to do things against the best team in the Premier League at the moment, and I think the fans appreciated that. Their reaction showed they were very pleased with the way we played.”

Isaac Hayden returns to the squad this afternoon, but Newcastle are without goalkeeper Rob Elliot, who is struggling with a thigh injury. Florian Lejeune remains unavailable, and the centre-half will also miss Monday’s trip to Stoke City.

Teams (probable):

Newcastle (4-2-3-1): Darlow; Yedlin, Clark, Lascelles, Manquillo; Hayden, Shelvey; Ritchie, Perez, Atsu; Joselu.

Brighton (4-2-3-1): Ryan; Bruno, Dunk, Duffy, Suttner; Stephens, Kayal; Knockaert, Gross, March; Hemed.