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Shelvey and Ritchie back in squad, confirms Rafa

Written by Tom Easterby

Newcastle United boss Rafa Benítez has confirmed Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Ritchie will be part of the Magpies squad for Saturday’s visit of Arsenal (3pm kick-off).

United return to St. James’ Park after the international break, with Unai Emery’s side standing between the hosts and a first Premier League win of the season.

And Benítez has indicated that influential duo Shelvey and Ritchie, who have both missed Newcastle’s last two games with thigh and knee problems respectively, would return to the fold for the clash with the Gunners.

“These kind of weeks are very difficult, because we have players coming back (from international duty) so you have to check everyone and how they feel,” he said.

“We have Shelvey and Ritchie training, so no big issue – everyone was training. We have to decide now who can play and who cannot.

“But both Ritchie and Shelvey are in the squad.”

There have been suggestions in recent weeks that England would benefit from having a player of Shelvey’s creativity and guile in their ranks.

Benítez believes the midfielder, who has six caps to his name, is more than capable of filling that void for his country.

“For me, yes, for sure,” he said. “He has the quality, he has the vision and he can make those passes that the strikers like behind the defenders, and things like that.

“But especially because in a team, in a squad, you have to have different kind of players. I don’t see too many like Jonjo in the team.

“Southgate is the manager, he has to decide. I am the manager of Newcastle United and Shelvey is my player. Can he play for England? Yes. That’s it.”

The Magpies beat Arsenal 2-1 at St. James’ Park back in April, with Ayoze Pérez and Ritchie cancelling out Alexandre Lacazette’s early opener.

Emery has since taken the reins from Arsene Wenger at the Emirates, and Benítez is keen for his side to find of way of recording a first victory of the campaign after what has proved a testing start to 2018/19.

“Every game is different. We will try to set up a team that can win, with the tactics and everything we can do,” he said. “We will decide before the game – we have been talking, we have been working on that, but we will try to do something that will be enough to win the game.

“It has been quite difficult, but now we will play against another top side with a new manager and players with a lot of quality – it’s a challenge for us. We have to approach the game thinking that we can win, and I’m sure that we will try to do it.”

"We have Shelvey and Ritchie training, so no big issue – everyone was training. We have to decide now who can play and who cannot. But both Ritchie and Shelvey are in the squad.

Rafa Benítez

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