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Duo available for Foxes clash - Benítez

Written by Rory Mitchinson

Rafa Benítez has confirmed that Jamaal Lascelles and Christian Atsu are both in contention for Saturday’s Premier League game against Leicester City at St. James’ Park.

Neither player has featured since United’s 1-0 defeat to AFC Bournemouth at the beginning of November, in which Lascelles limped off the pitch with an ankle injury ten minutes into the second half, before Atsu withdrew because of a thigh problem late on.

Newcastle’s winless run has continued in the pair’s absence, the Magpies slipping to fifteenth in the Premier League table ahead of a hectic festive period.

But, with Paul Dummett also closing in on a return, Lascelles’ and Atsu’s availability will come as a timely boost to Benítez, who has encouraged his side to re-find their competitive edge against the Foxes tomorrow night.

“Lascelles and Atsu, they are available. Dummett will play with the Under-23s today to improve his match fitness. We had some problems and now we are bringing back players and that is good news, because – in the end – I always say the same: the competition between players is the key for us,” he said.

“We have to improve as a team to be sure we can compete against some of the top sides. The teams at the top at the moment, we are a little bit far away, but still we could do something against Liverpool, for example. I think it is important that the next two games at home, if we can compete, we can win. If we cannot compete – like happened in the second half against Manchester United or Chelsea – we cannot win. As I have said before, we have to maximise what we have, and what we have is fantastic fans behind the team, at home and away. So, they have to show again that they support the team because these are the players we have.”

Saturday’s clash officially marks the club’s 125th anniversary, with a host of special touches planned around St. James’ and the city itself.

“I think it will be important for everyone here,” said Benítez. “And, hopefully, we can manage this atmosphere to be positive for the players. So, I will repeat the message again: these are our players, they are giving everything, and we have to support them. We will not change anything criticising this player, or the other one, or even the team selection, because in the end what we need is everyone together, supporting our players. That’s it.

“When we talk about ‘united’, we have to be really, really ‘united’ if we want to stay in the Premier League.”

"We had some problems and now we are bringing back players and that is good news, because – in the end – I always say the same: the competition between players is the key for us."

Rafa Benítez

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