Since Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool, NUFC wide men Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu have been forced to pull out of international duty for Scotland and Ghana respectively.
The good news is that Rafa Benitez believes the pair should be fit to face Southampton next Sunday, however the bad news is that Atsu may end up requiring knee surgery that would keep him out for 3 months according to The Chronicle.
Ritchie is believed to have withdrawn from the Scotland squad with a slight thigh concern, with Benitez suggesting that the wingers all action style and constant presence in the team has meant he needed a rest.
It appears as though he was pulled from the Scotland squad as precautionary, with Rafa keen to not take any risks on one of his star men:
“Matt Ritchie has been playing too many games,”
“He was working very hard, he had a little bit of discomfort and a few little things that he was talking with the doctor.
“It was better that we didn’t take a risk.”
Atsu’s situation appears slightly more complicated and concerning however.
The Chronicle have revealed that the Ghanaian has been receiving injections throughout the season in an attempt to delay an operation which would see him ruled out for up to 3 months.
They also explain that this niggling problem was the reason he missed out away at Swansea last month – a game Jacob Murphy started to our surprise – with his knee problem also being the reason he’s been told the sit out of Ghana’s crucial World Cup qualifiers over the coming week.
Here’s what Rafa said on Atsu’s situation:
“He has a little bit of discomfort in his knee and we have to manage it carefully,”
It is stated in The Chronicle that ‘Benitez appears unconcerned about Atsu’s availability going forward’, with both looking set to play against Southampton, however Atsu’s niggle is one that could become problematic.
We do have £12M signing Jacob Murphy and Rolando Aarons in reserve if Atsu did require the operation, however it would be a blow to lose him for 3 months given how improved the Ghanaian winger has been this season.
Good news for Southampton away it seems. Potentially bad news if these niggles persist for the pair.