(Reuters) – The return of key players from injury, including club captain Jamaal Lascelles, has handed Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez a timely boost ahead of the busy festive period, the Spaniard said on Friday.
Newcastle have recovered well from a sluggish start, winning their last three Premier League games after failing to secure a victory in their first 10, and are up to 13th in the table ahead of Saturday’s home game against West Ham United.
Centre back Lascelles, who has not played since Nov. 3, is pushing for a return after recovering from a shoulder injury, while midfielder Jonjo Shelvey and forward Yoshinori Muto, who also missed the last two games, have trained this week.
Left back Paul Dummett is the only player sure to miss the match against West Ham after injuring a hamstring while on international duty with Wales this month.
“We have just Dummett not fully training with the team,” Benitez told a news conference on Friday. “The others… have all completed at least one training session.
“I have problems as I have to decide the squad and I have almost everybody available. However, that’s a good problem as we have many games to play in December. If you have more options, then you have more chances to field a strong team.”
West Ham are a place below Newcastle in the table due to goal difference, with both sides tied on 12 points, and Benitez is wary of Manuel Pellegrini’s team.
“West Ham have very good players and have spent money,” he added. “There can be players who you may not see for 80 minutes but they could change the game within a couple of minutes.”
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)