Rafa Benitez is hopeful that Chancel Mbemba will be fit for the opening game of the season, according to the Shields Gazette.
With Grant Hanley settling into the side, there is no pressure on Benitez to rush the Congolese international back to the XI. However, it’s always good for a manager to have a full squad to choose from.
Mbemba’s injury doesn’t appear to be serious. Rafa’s update was fairly positive:
“He twisted his ankle in the training session. It’s nothing serious, but he couldn’t be here.”
It’s important that we don’t go into the season with injuries worries, we’re going to face enough of them as the months pass. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe we’ll be thought of as a ‘big scalp’ for most of the division and just as we get pumped for big matches, so will opponents when they face us next season.
Some tough tackles will no doubt ensue and we may see Rafa rotating the side quite regularly, especially with 46 league matches as well as both domestic cup competitions to fit in.
I expect Grant Hartley to begin at Fulham but after that, it will be down to form. And that’s a good pressure to put the players under.