Rafa Benitez names the Newcastle player he’s readying for an extraordinary comeback

Cheick Tiote and Rafa Benitez
Cheick Tiote and Rafa Benitez
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Cheick Tiote’s been put on standby at Newcastle United ahead of his January sale.

Rafa Benitez is considering handing the midfielder a start against Sheffield Wednesday on Boxing Day.

If he’s leaving, do you play him or maybe give a chance to another player and then try to keep your squad happy? Those are the kind of things we have to decide.

Rafa Benitez

Jack Colback is also being assessed ahead of a possible return to the field.

Long-serving Tiote – who will be allowed to leave in next month’s transfer window – has only played 15 minutes of Championship football so far this season.

But the 30-year-old could be recalled for the club’s next match with Jonjo Shelvey banned for five games after being found guilty of racial abuse by an independent panel.

“Tiote is the only one (who could leave in Jan),” said United manager Benitez.

“We have a problem, because at the beginning he was leaving. Then we were waiting. Then with the market open in the (United Arab) Emirates, we were waiting. We were not using him.

“Then what happened was that the team was doing really well. We didn’t need him.

“Now, I was talking with him, and obviously he has clubs asking. He is receiving offers. What can we do? He’s training really well.

“We can play him, but he has not much match fitness. But he’s training fine.

“If he’s leaving, do you play him or maybe give a chance to another player and then try to keep your squad happy? Those are the kind of things we have to decide.”

Meanwhile, Colback has been sidelined for a month with a vision problem.

“Colback’s fine,” said Benitez.

“He’s training every day, and he’s getting better. You can see that he’s fine, like Tiote.

“He’s training well. We just need the green light to say ‘yes’. We have to be sure he’s fine in the next couple of training sessions.”