Rafa Benitez is sweating on the fitness of goalkeeping duo Rob Elliot and Karl Darlow ahead of next Saturday’s clash with Huddersfield – and also faces a nervous wait to see if Islam Slimani will return from international duty without aggravating his troublesome thigh.
The goalkeeping situation seems to be the biggest concern. Whilst Martin Dubravka will keep the number one jersey (and rightly so), both back up options Darlow and Elliot may be missing next weekend.
Darlow picked up a shoulder injury during last week’s training camp (seeing him miss the Antwerp game), whilst Elliot missed out entirely due to a back problem – which has also seen him withdraw from international duty with Ireland.
Newcastle United youngster Nathan Harker on standby due to goalkeeping injuries https://t.co/aNTAmu5ndR
— Peter Fanning (@peterfanning9) March 19, 2018
With this in mind, the Chronicle have confirmed that Benitez may be forced to put 19-year-old goalkeeper Nathan Harker on the bench next Saturday – something he would prefer not to do given the youngsters total lack of senior experience.
Regarding Slimani, the Algerian was pencilled in for a return against Huddersfield in 10 days, however this will all depend on how he responds to his time away on international duty.
Rafa will be hoping he returns unscathed – especially when you consider that he’ll only be able to feature in SIX games for us this season if he misses out once again vs Huddersfield.