Rafa Benitez has confirmed that both Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Ritchie are ‘training really hard’ and ‘getting closer’ to returning from injury – suggesting both will be back in time for next weekend’s clash with Arsenal at St James’ Park.
Shelvey has not featured since our 0-0 draw away to Cardiff, missing defeats to Chelsea, Forest and Man City thanks to a niggling thigh injury (something that he struggled with at one stage of pre-season).
Ritchie played in the 2-1 defeat to Chelsea but has not been seen since, missing our last two games with an unknown injury.
Here’s what Rafa’s had to say about the pair:
“When you have players injured the international break gives you some time to recover.
“They (Ritchie and Shelvey) are training really hard and that’s good news for us because they’re getting closer,”
Rafa refuses to confirm whether either will be available for next weekend’s clash with Arsenal, however this is a positive update – with it sounding to me like they’ll be ready in time given they’re now back in training a week before we’re due to play.
Benitez then spoke about the positives and negatives of the international break, mentioning that he can take advantage of the reduced numbers in training by working more closely with specific players:
“I think it’s a time you can spend with your players – specific players. When you have the whole team you have to do tactics for everyone but when you have half a team you can work with individuals.
“You can practice the first touch of some players, the movement or work with some defenders. You can work on more individual aspects.
“In some ways it’s negative because you don’t have all the players, in some ways it’s positive because you can improve individuals.”
Let’s hope both Ritchie and Shelvey are back next weekend.