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Howe says Willock and Isak nearing return ahead of Arsenal trip

Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe says Joe Willock and Alexander Isak have returned to training this week - but wouldn't be drawn on whether the duo would be fit enough to feature against Arsenal on Saturday night.

The Magpies head to the Emirates Stadium (kick-off 8pm GMT) looking to extend their unbeaten run to six games in all competitions, but will face a Gunners side who have won on each of their last five Premier League outings.

United have been without the services of former Arsenal midfielder Willock - who has made just six appearances so far this term - since November, while Isak has been absent since being withdrawn in the 3-1 win at Aston Villa last month.

On Friday morning, head coach Howe says both players have been out on the grass at Newcastle's Benton training centre in the build-up to the clash with Mikel Arteta's title hopefuls - but did not confirm whether the pair were ready to return to action in North London.

Here are some of the other talking points from Howe's pre-match media briefing:

On Willock and Isak's fitness...

"They have trained this week - it has been good to see them back on the grass.

"It has been a long time for Joe but he is a huge player for us. It's been great to see him back among the group - he is a very popular member of the squad. I'm really pleased for him this week.

"With Alex, again, he's a really important player. He's trained really well, so we're happy with both players.

"We'll have to wait and see - we've one more training session - but we've been pleased with their progress."

On Arteta's Arsenal...

"We will need to replicate close to our best performance in order to get something from the game. We've had some really good games against Arsenal in recent seasons - very tight affairs.

"Last season at the Emirates was a really battling performance from us. Defensively, we're going need to be improved from where we have been in recent weeks. That's the challenge for us.

"Arsenal this season have been very, very good in every aspect of the game - statistically one of the best teams in the league, and rightly where they are in the table. It will be a challenge for us."

On trying to break into the top six...

"We are desperate to try and close the gap on the teams above us, so we've got a lot to be motivated for. Hopefully, the confidence is returning.

"We have a big challenge against Arsenal. We want to win - we will do everything in our power to win."

On defender Kieran Trippier, who is currently leading the top flight's assists chart...

"It is a brilliant stat for a full back. He is a guy who will play a lot of creative passes before a goal happens.

"He has been fundamental to how we work - his leadership skills behind-the-scenes have been second to none."


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Eddie Howe's pre-Arsenal media briefing in full

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