Some potentially exciting news ahead of Sunday’s visit of Man Utd to St James’ Park, with the Chronicle revealing that Rafa Benitez could be set to hand starts to all THREE January signings this weekend – meaning full debuts for Islam Slimani and Martin Dubravka against Mourinho’s men.
Starting with Slimani, it seems the Algerian striker’s thigh injury is more minor than first feared (initial prognosis was 2 weeks out), with him having trained for the first time with his new NUFC teammates on Wednesday. Sky claimed earlier that he looked set to be involved on Sunday, but the Chronicle now reveal that Rafa looks ready to go with him from the start. A welcome boost given our desperate need for goals.
Now to Dubravka, who was named on the bench ahead of Rob Elliot for last Sunday’s trip to Palace. The Chronicle state he is now ‘pushing for a start’, with Benitez keen to up the ‘tempo and rythm’ of our player (which he felt had become predictable), with the Slovkian’s ball playing ability potentially playing a big factor in improving this.
Brazilian wide man Kenedy has started the last two games since arriving from Chelsea on loan, and the Chronicle claim that he has being doing extra work on the training ground so he is able to last longer than the 57 minutes he managed at Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Here’s what the Chronicle had to say on the trio ahead of Sunday’s game:
“He (Slimani) has had no adverse reaction to stepping up his training ground work and looks likely to be handed a full debut against the Red Devils, when Benitez will be able to utilise all three of the January arrivals who he believes could be key to improving the team in the second half of the season.
“Benitez has withdrawn Kenedy early in the second half in both of his Premier League games so far but with another week of work on the training ground the hope is that the Brazilian winger will be able to last longer against Manchester United.
“And Martin Dubravka, the sweeper-keeper signed from Sparta Prague last week, is also pushing for a first start as Benitez looks to alter the tempo and rhythm of Newcastle’s game – which he feels has become too predictable.
“A ball-playing goalkeeper, a winger capable of the unexpected and a target man with aerial ability and a goalscorers touch should improve Newcastle – even if United are still a long shot to notch a first victory over a top half team of the season.”
This is a huge boost regarding Slimani in particular. We’ve shown some promising signs since Kenedy’s arrival, but having a striker capable of causing problems and putting the ball in the back of the net is priceless in our position.
Dubravka’s potential debut on such a big occasion appears risky, but Rafa spoke of his ‘ball playing style’, his strong personality and his good English earlier in the week, so maybe he’s ready to come in for Darlow – who had a very mixed day at Selhurst Park last weekend.
Kenedy we expected to start, but hopefully another weeks worth of training does his physical condition the world of good. He tired quickly against Palace and is a player who we need on the pitch for as long as possible given his influence in the last two games.