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20170825 Rafa Benitez.jpg

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Rafa ready to Rol the dice

Written by Tom Easterby

Newcastle United boss Rafa Benítez is waiting on the fitness of winger Rolando Aarons as the Magpies prepare to take on West Ham United at St. James’ Park on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

Aarons’ display was one of the positives to come out of Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup defeat at home to Nottingham Forest, with the 21-year-old bagging a stunning goal in what was his first start in exactly a year.

The pacey winger has been waiting for his chance since returning from a cruciate knee ligament injury towards the end of last season, and Benítez is hopeful Aarons will be able to shake off a knock in time for the weekend visit of the Slaven Bilić’s Hammers – who are also without a Premier League win so far.

“He is another one we’ll have to see, because he has a knock. We will see how he reacts. At the moment, he is there in the squad, and we will see,” said the Magpies manager.

“At the end of last season, he was ready, but we didn’t want to take the risk because the team was doing well. We had the summer to be sure he was fully fit, but he was ready.

“He needed to play games, he did well in pre-season, and the other day he was one of the players who did really well.

“We are now waiting, and hopefully he can reproduce this kind of performance every game.”

Benítez also confirmed that striker Dwight Gayle was a doubt for the match, which has come too soon for another three of his charges.

“Lejeune is not ready, Yedlin is still not ready and also we have Darlow with a knock on his thigh, so he will not be on the bench,” he said.

Forward Emmanuel Rivière departed for Metz on Friday, as Benítez continued to reshape his squad ahead of the transfer deadline next Thursday.

And he revealed Dutch forward Siem de Jong could soon follow Rivière out of the club, as efforts continue to bring in new faces.

“We are trying to do our job behind the scenes, and at the same time, try to concentrate on football,” said Benítez.

“I have the confidence that the team will improve, and I’m sure that if we continue working in the way that we are working now it will be much better during the season. Obviously if you move players out or move players in, it will be a big difference.

“We announced that Rivière has gone to Metz, so still we are working, and de Jong is very close to Ajax, so we are working on that and we are working on trying to move players in, too.

“It means that we are reducing the number of players that we have, and we can continue looking for different options in the market.”

"(Rolando) needed to play games, he did well in pre-season, and the other day he was one of the players who did really well."

Rafa Benítez

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