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Rafa Benitez watching the team at a training session

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Gayle closing in on return, says Rafa

Written by Rory Mitchinson

Rafa Benitez says that leading goalscorer Dwight Gayle is “very, very close” to a return to action as Newcastle United gear up for Saturday’s Sky Bet Championship clash at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Gayle has not figured for United since suffering a hamstring injury in last month’s 2-1 win at Brentford – a game in which he took his tally for the season to 20.

In his absence, Yoan Gouffran, Daryl Murphy and Aleksandar Mitrovic have each spearheaded the Magpies’ attack across two separate fronts.

Though he will soon have Gayle back in contention, Benitez was quick to commend the trio for their own efforts in recent weeks.

Dwight Gayle has been training – he has just completed some training sessions – and he is very, very close now. I have been quite happy with the other players – I think they have been doing well. But, at the same time, you have a player who has scored 20 goals, and he is always a threat for defenders,” he said.

“We have almost everyone available again now. (Vurnon) Anita and Rolando (Aarons) are out, but all of the others are training, pushing and they are nearly there.”

Back in September, Newcastle encountered Wolves twice within a matter of days.

In the first meeting, the Magpies slumped to a surprise 2-0 defeat at St. James’ Park, though they recovered to see off the Black Country outfit by the same scoreline in the EFL Cup 72 hours later.

Since then, Italian Walter Zenga has been replaced in the dugout by Paul Lambert, whose charges sit 18th in the standings ahead of the weekend.

Benitez is expecting a different sort of test at Molineux tomorrow, and acknowledges that his side are likely to come under pressure.

“We know – in the Championship – there are no easy games. Every game – especially away – everyone wants to beat you. They have a new manager, and I think it will be totally different,” he said.

“But, I think we are ready. Last week (against Derby County), we won, and we did well for a while. Then, we were suffering a little bit, but in the end, we got three points. We are at the top and we are happy, but at the same time we know the next one is always the most difficult game, because it is the next one. It is important just to concentrate on one game, and see what happens.”

"Dwight Gayle has been training – he has just completed some training sessions – and he is very, very close now."

Rafa Benitez

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