Rafa Benitez has warned Islam Slimani that he will have to prove in training and for his country that he is ready to return ahead of Saturday’s clash with Huddersfield – suggesting he will not just walk into his NUFC team.
As we all know, Slimani’s not yet kicked a ball for the club despite making a loan move from Leicester almost two months ago, however he could be set to play in Algeria’s friendly with Iran later today.
While this may indicate that he could be ready to return for Saturday’s game with Huddersfield, Rafa has insisted that he’s got work to do yet, demanding he impresses in training (and for his country) before he’s even considered for selection this weekend:
“The competition now is quite good. And Islam Slimani, when he comes back to fitness, will have to compete with them.”
“He has confidence in himself, which is positive, but he has to show us this in the training sessions and with his country, then we will see what happens against Huddersfield.”
Benitez also praised Dwight Gayle and Joselu’s contributions in Slimani’s absence, suggesting he’ll have to prove he’s worthy of a start above both before he’s considered for selection:
“He’s fine, he’s doing well,”
“Joselu has not been playing too much at the moment, but whenever he is on the bench he is positive too.
“Joselu plays 10 or 15 minutes at the end of games, he is giving us control and something different.
I think quite a few would be irked if a goal-shy Joselu was played over a proven goalscorer in Slimani, however I do think Gayle would get the nod over the Leicester loanee on Saturday even if both were fit.
Gayle has 2 goals and 2 assists in his last four and has looked much brighter of late, so Slimani will have to prove his fitness and his quality in training if he’s to edge the current number 9 out of Rafa’s side.
Let’s hope he can play some part for Algeria this afternoon and return to Tyneside with a spring in his step ahead, ready to make up for lost time after several months out.