After both missed out of the entire squad in the 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace, Rafa Benitez has revealed that he is confident that Islam Slimani will be ready to face Man Utd on Sunday – also confirming that Joselu was not involved at Palace due to virus.
Despite initial reports suggesting Slimani would be missing for two weeks, the Algerian took part in training and was given an outside chance of playing at Palace. It wasn’t to be, but, based on these comments, Rafa seems to think he’ll be ready for the visit of Man Utd:
“He was not ready (to play at Palace).
“He was training on Saturday, he will train tomorrow, and he will have a chance for next Sunday.
“He must compete, like Dubravka and Kenedy.”
Rafa then admitted that he was ‘mentally ready’ to play against Palace and was close to being involved, however it sounds like we preferred not the take the risk:
“We think he is mentally ready for sure, physically he’s almost there but the head is important and if you are convinced you are in a position to try that’s good.
“We don’t want to push him if it’s not needed but hopefully he can train well and if it’s not for the weekend (against Palace) at least it will be for Manchester United and by then we will have all the strikers competing for all the positions.”
Sounds to me like they didn’t risk him against Palace so he’d be ready for Man Utd at home on Sunday.
Let’s hope so. With Gayle out of sorts and Joselu severely lacking confidence at St James’ Park, we could really do with seeing Slimani on Sunday. Not only would his debut hand fans a big boost ahead of a tough game with Mourinho’s Man Utd, but it’s also a game where we must finish our chances, and you’d back him to do that above our other options right now!
Then to Joselu, with Rafa revealing that the Spaniard missed out at Palace due to a virus:
“He has a virus.
“Then it was very dangerous for everyone because in the end all the family are with the virus and you have to be careful.
“He was very weak.”
With this in mind and Gayle’s poor performance at Palace, might we just see Slimani make his debut at St James’ on Sunday?
We hope so!