Rafa Benitez begins Newcastle rescue bid

Ranieri, 64, has much in common with 55-year-old Spaniard Benitez, as both men count Napoli, Valencia, Chelsea and Inter Milan among their former clubs.

But the Leicester manager has expressed regret over the dismissal of McClaren, who oversaw only six league wins during his nine-month St James’ Park tenure.

“It’s our job, it’s our life,” Ranieri said. “Sometimes it could happen. I appreciated him. It’s sad.”

Influential winger Riyad Mahrez has been passed fit for Leicester, having been forced off with cramp in his hamstring after netting the winner at Watford.

Central midfielder Matty James has returned to training after a serious knee injury that has kept him out for the entire season to date, but he is unlikely to feature in the squad.

Benitez was quick to make his presence felt at Newcastle, cancelling a planned day off for his players and bringing them in for a hastily convened afternoon training session on Friday.

The former Liverpool manager will be without left-back Paul Dummett, who aggravated a hamstring problem during the 3-1 home defeat by Bournemouth that spelt the end of McClaren’s Tyneside tenure.

Captain Fabricio Coloccini is a doubt with a calf injury, while goalkeeper Tim Krul, defenders Chancel Mbemba, Massadio Haidara and Kevin Mbabu and winger Gabriel Obertan remain sidelined.

But England winger Andros Townsend, a January signing from Tottenham, hopes to overcome the hamstring problem that has caused him to miss the last two games.

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