RAFA BENITEZ will have the final say over whether Jamie Sterry and Sean Longstaff will be available for tonight’s Checkatrade Trophy tie at Sunderland.

The eagerly-awaited game will see the Magpies’ Under-21s do battle with Sunderland’s first team at the Stadium of Light for the right to make it into the quarter-finals of the EFL competition.

Sterry and Longstaff both played in Saturday’s FA Cup third round draw with Blackburn at St James’ Park and Benitez is weighing up whether to hand them places in tonight’s game. Neither are likely to be starters at Chelsea in the Premier League this weekend.

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Benitez and his coaching staff have had the trip to Wearside in mind when selecting teams for the two games that took place over the weekend, with the Under-23s beating their Sunderland counterparts 3-2 on Friday night.

Prolific striker Elias Sorensen didn’t face Blackburn, while the talented Connor Roberts played Friday instead. Benitez can name two over 21s in the Trophy team if he wants to.

It is not even clear whether Benitez will make the trip to the Stadium of Light, where coach Ben Dawson will hope to be leading the Newcastle young guns to within another step of Wembley.

Benitez said: “I will check with the staff what we will do with players. We are quite busy, I won’t change too much of what we were going to do with the first team.

“We don’t know how many we can play on Tuesday because we have to decide who can cope with playing games, we have a lot of games.

“One or two can play but we will have to decide if it is important for them, for us. For us the main thing is to make sure we do the right thing for the first team, the 23s and the club.”

Newcastle go in to tonight’s game having sealed a late three points against Sunderland on Friday.

Sunderland cruised into a two-goal lead but Newcastle battled back with goals from Tom Allan and Elias Sorensen. Substitute Rosaire Longelo emerged from the bench to net the winner.

Longelo hopes to get the nod tonight. He said: “It does not matter whether I start or I’m on the bench, but I will always try my best to make an impact and help my team-mates out by giving my all every match.

“We need to concentrate on a game that me and the lads are very excited for. We can’t wait for that match. It should be a good experience for all of us. Hopefully we can get the win at the Stadium of Light too as we have a very good team with a strong mentality.”

Newcastle have often played out of favour first team player Achraf Lazaar in the Under-23s but he is unlikely to figure this evening.

He is expected to leave this month and there is increased interest in him from Italy. Genoa and Frosinone have been keen on him for a while, and now Empoli want him.

There has been little transfer progress so far on Tyneside, where Benitez is keen to hear of some positive news to boost his attempts to keep Newcastle in the Premier League.

He is already wary that he could be without key midfielder Jonjo Shelvey for a number of games in the run-in because of a long standing thigh problem.

Shelvey has been told to head to Barcelona to see a specialist this week in the hope of finding a solution to boost his chances of figuring in more matches.

The thigh injury flared up again after he was introduced against Blackburn in the FA Cup and it has beenn ongoing since November. He has only started eight league games this season and is a big miss.

Shelvey has already been to Barcelona in the last couple of months to visit the specialist but it remains concern so he is to return with a physio from the club.

Benitez needs Shelvey as an option because South Korean Ki Sung-yeung has gone to the Asian Cup and might not be back until next month.

Isaac Hayden has played more recently but he is unsettled and is angling for a return south this month with apparent interest in him from Brighton.