Rafa Benitez hints at his preferred striker for Newcastle’s relegation run-in

Papiss Cisse, far left, and Aleksandar Mitrovic, right top
Papiss Cisse, far left, and Aleksandar Mitrovic, right top

Rafa Benitez believes Papiss Cisse and Aleksandar Mitrovic can bring enough goals to Newcastle to keep the club up.

Cisse has started Newcastle United’s last three games after recovering from long-term injury.

Papiss is doing a great job. And after, you know Mitrovic will come and be a threat too.

Rafa Benitez

The 30-year-old scored his first goal in five months in last weekend’s 2-2 draw against Liverpool at Anfield.

Mitrovic has been used as an impact substitute by manager Benitez.

But Benitez – whose relegation-threatened side take on Crystal Palace at St James’s Park on Saturday – hasn’t ruled out fielding both of his frontline strikers at the same time.

Cisse joined Mitrovic on the pitch against Sunderland last month as Newcastle pushed for an equaliser in the Tyne-Wear derby.

“You have to match (them) – it depends on the games,” said Benitez.

“Papiss is doing a great job. And after, you know Mitrovic will come and be a threat too.

“I think we have to find the balance between one, the other one and sometimes even both (like) against Sunderland.

“You have to be sure both are ready and they compete between them. That is good for the team.”

Cisse and 21-year-old Mitrovic, signed last summer from Anderlecht, have scored 11 goals between them this season for second-bottom Newcastle.

Meanwhile, Benitez has revealed that forward Yoan Gouffran, sidelined since early last month, is close to a comeback.

United’s treatment room has steadily emptied in recent weeks, though Benitez lost defensive pair Daryl Janmaat and Steven Taylor to injuries at Southampton earlier this month.

Defender Kevin Mbabu, out since January, was back on the bench at Anfield.

And Benitez told BBC Radio Newcastle: “We Mbabu coming back, that is good news. Gouffran is closer, so we have some players getting closer.

“At least we have Mbabu, who is a defender and can help with the defender crisis.”

Janmaat is battling to play again this season, having limped off the field at the St Mary’s Stadium with a groin problem.

The 26-year-old also fractured his hand punching a wall in frustration after the game.