Some good news on the fitness front after being concerned to see Islam Slimani fail to make the squad on Sunday, with Rafa Benitez insisting that the Leicester loanee is ‘fine’ and should be ok for the trip to Bournemouth next weekend.
Walking to the game on Sunday I was eagerly anticipating seeing his name in the starting 11, however it was a shame and a real concern to see him fail to even make the bench.
In the end we didn’t need him, but his expected introduction away to Bournemouth next weekend could give us that extra lift we’ll need away from St James’ Park.
Here’s what Rafa’s had to say when asked why he missed Sunday’s game and whether he will be fit for our next game at Bournemouth a week on Saturday:
“He’s fine, but still he was feeling it (thigh) a little bit.
“And it’s a question now of waiting because we have 15 days before the next game, so we can keep working with him.”
With this weekend seeing FA Cup action resume, we’ve got a week off from Premier League football, meaning the Algerian will have extra time to recover on the training ground as Rafa alludes to hear.
The fact he was ‘feeling it a little bit” explains why he wasn’t even involved on Sunday. He may have been back in full training last week and linking up with his NUFC new team mates for the first time, but it would’ve been a big risk to start a striker who was still feeling the effects of his injury in a game of that intensity.
When you look at the shift the likes of Gayle and Perez were made to put in up top, we would’ve run the risk of Slimani’s injury becoming much worse if he’d played an part.
Hopefully he can return for Bournemouth, mind. Gayle and Joselu haven’t looked up to it for the vast majority of the season and Slimani’s presence could be massive in avoiding an edgy end to the season and firing us to safety.
If he has anywhere near the impact Kenedy and Dubravka have had then I’m confident he’ll make the difference! Although he’s no use on the sidelines.