Newcastle will again be without top-scorer Dwight Gayle as he continues to battle his way back from a hamstring injury. Jack Colback will not return either, but is “recovering well” according to Benitez.
Chancel Mbemba is back in training following DR Congo’s elimination from the African Cup of Nations, but will not feature. Christian Atsu will play a third place play-off before returning to Tyneside.
Rolando Aarons and Vurnon Anita remain long term absentees.
Captain Jamaal Lascelles has come under some scrutiny lately after poor displays, but looks set to keep his place.
Ayoze Perez is another who was extremely poor against QPR, and there is a good chance Mo Diame will recapture his spot in the team.
As for who will lead the line, this may prove a difficult decision for Benitez. With Daryl Murphy’s scoring run coming to an end, and Aleksandar Mitrovic waiting in the wings, it would not be a surprise to see the Serbian start.
As for the Rams, new signing David Nugent has suffered a knee injury and will miss the game. Will Hughes is also missing with a shoulder injury.
Wide men Ikechi Anya and Nick Blackman will be hopeful of starting berths after making their returns against Ipswich in midweek.
Alex Pearce will partner the man that McClaren described as “the best defender in the Championship”, Richard Keogh, in the heart of defence.
Hughes’ injury means that Jacob Butterfield is in line for his second consecutive start. He will play in a three man midfield for the away side.
A real danger man is of course Tom Ince, the former Liverpool winger has scored in each of his previous two league games.
It is a game that Rafa Benitez will feel his side have to win. Brighton’s defeat at Huddersfield served as a get-out-of-jail free card, but they must take advantage.
Likely line ups
Newcastle: Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Shelvey, Hayden, Ritchie, Diame, Gouffran, Mitrovic
Derby: Carson, Baird, Keogh, Pearce, Olsson, Bryson, Johnson, Butterfield, Ince, Bent, Russell
Score prediction: Newcastle United 2-1 Derby County
The match will not be televised across the UK. You can follow the game however on BBC Radio Newcastle’s live match commentary, courtesy of the official NUFC website.