Rafa Benitez has confirmed that Paul Dummett is OUT of tomorrow’s game with West Ham – also refusing to rule out a move for Miguel Almiron and insisting that a new left-back is high on his priority list ahead of the January window.
The good news is that Lascelles, Shelvey and Muto are all fit and back in contention for tomorrow, however Dummett’s absence and the lack of cover for him highlights just how short we are on left-backs.
Here’s what he said when asked about Miguel Almiron – after news we’d jetted off to America for talks – and his transfer plans for the January, with him starting with a comical response to the Almiron questions:
“Who is the name? Who does he play for?
“It’s not January we keep on working. I was watching the TV the other day & I saw the name… We don’t talk about the transfer window.”
“We have one month, the team is doing well & we must concentrate on all these games rather than talk about ‘names'”
“Everyone can see we need another left-back because we only have one.
“Paul Dummett knows it too, and he is happy because he wants competition from an attacking player.”
Rafa Benitez refuses to rule out move for Paraguay international Miguel Almiron, but asked me to pronounce his name properly…
— Keith Downie (@SkySports_Keith) November 30, 2018
Benitez then moved onto the injury news ahead of tomorrow’s game with West Ham, confirming that Dummett is the only player who will be missing after failing to train fully – however he did insist that he is ‘very close’ to returning:
“Dummett is the only one still not available. He was training today with the fitness coach and making some runs, sprints and crosses but is still not fully fit.”
“The only one that hasn’t trained is Dummett. Lascelles, Lejeune, Muto and Sterry have all trained.”
“I have a ‘good problem’ with selection”
There’s no mention of Shelvey here, but he was on the bench at Burnley and has been spotted train all week so he will be in the squad tomorrow.
The issue is how we’ll now fill that left-back slot. We could be unchanged and play three at the back as we did at Burnley, but if we got for his favoured 4-2-3-1 and a flat back four, it’ll be interesting to see who he opts for at left-back – with Clark failing to convince whenever he’s played here.
Rafa also said the following when asked about the fans and a potential 11-minute walk in as organised by the Magpie Group – insisting that he is not here to tell the fans what to do:
“Our fans have been really good. Especially the last game at Burnley. They showed the passion.
“They know what is best for the team. I am not here to tell them what to do.
“I respect our fans”
Transfer speculations and protests aside, let’s hope we can get another important three points tomorrow – with us having the chance to make it FOUR on the spin against the Hammers.