Rafa Benitez has provided a much needed update on the fitness of NUFC quartet Jamaal Lascelles, Mikel Merino, Christian Atsu and Paul Dummett, suggesting that the skipper and Spanish midfielder are likely to miss next weekend’s game at Man Utd – but offering more positive news on the fitness of Atsu and Dummett.
Starting with Lascelles, the NUFC captain was forced off in the second half of last Saturday’s defeat to Bournemouth and Benitez has today commented on his fitness for the first time since then:
“It’s (Lascelles’ ankle) still a bit painful, he has been working with the physios and getting a little bit better but it’s slow.
“We have to wait a couple of days and then without inflammation we will see how it is.
Merino looks certain to miss Man Utd next weekend, with Benitez insisting once again that he will be out for a few weeks, whilst it also sounds like Lascelels will be sidelined for the trip to Old Trafford:
“Next week it will be more clear how long he is out for but a couple of weeks at least for Merino, maybe, and we will see with Jamaal.
“It’s very difficult for both of them [Merino and Lascelles] for Man United. If it was fine now, maybe you have one week of training but if not – even if he is fit, he will not be ready physically – it will be two weeks without training and you may not be physically ready for a game like that.”
On a more positive note, Benitez sounded hopeful on the fitness of Christian Atsu – who limped off on Saturday holding his thigh – and despite them being out of Man Utd next weekend, Rafa stated that Dummett and Merino are both ‘getting better’.
“Atsu has gone away with Ghana [so he should be fine].
“Dummett has been training, he has been getting better and Merino, the information is that he is getting better too, a little bit more every day.”
This is a relief regarding Merino, with reports from Spain today having suggested he could be out for up to two months!
Hopefully Atsu also returns unscathed, with reports this week suggesting he was unable to train due to a thigh complaint – something he clearly picked up against Bournemouth at the weekend.
On the plus side, Ciaran Clark will be an able replacement for Lascelles if the skipper does miss out at Man Utd, although his presence at the back would be a miss given the role he’s played so far this season.