Massadio Haidara pushing to make a timely comeback for injury-hit Newcastle
The defender is back in light training after recovering from a knee operation late last year.
And Haidara will step up his efforts to make a playing comeback for the relegation-threatened club over the next fortnight.
United manager Rafa Benitez, already without the injured Paul Dummett, lost makeshift left-back Jack Colback to a two-game suspension in Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby, which ended 1-1.
Colback will miss the club’s visit to Norwich City on April 2 and the away game at Southampton a week later.
Dummett suffered hamstring injury in Steve McClaren’s last game in charge, the 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth, and isn’t expected to be fit for the Norwich game.
Haidara has endured a wretched season, having been restricted to just six Premier League starts by groin and knee injuries.
But the 23-year-old, signed three years ago from French club Nancy, recently posted a video of himself doing some ball work at the club’s Benton HQ on social media with the message: “Hope can be back soon.”
Haidara’s last appearance came in October’s 6-2 home win over Norwich, who climbed out of the relegation zone after their win over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
Haidara’s defensive colleague Daryl Janmaat is this week being assessed by the club’s medical team.
Janmaat was forced off with a knee injury during the derby.
Benitez said: “Janmaat had a knee problem.”
Janmaat had to pull out of Holland’s squad for the friendlies against France and England.
Second-bottom Newcastle are three points behind 17th-placed Norwich, but they have a game in hand against Alex Neil’s side.
And Benitez believes a win at Carrow Road would dramatically change the club’s outlook.
“We are close,” said the 55-year-old. “We have a game in hand.
“We have to improve our performance. If we do that, I think we can win the games that we need to to stay up.
“We need a little bit more time to fix things. We don’t have time. We have to play the games that we have to play.
“Norwich could be an opportunity to change things in a positive way. We will try to do it, for sure.”
United’s biggest problem this season has been goalscoring, but Benitez took heart from the chances his team created against 18th-placed Sunderland, who have a point more than Newcastle.
“What we have to do is prepare the next game, try and analyse what was bad and try and change things,” said Benitez.
“We are creating chances and attacking and we can be there.
“We have to improve this part of the game.
“Mitrovic, or (Papiss) Cisse, the other strikers, will score more goals and we will be fine. If we have to fight until the last game and the last minute then we have to do it.”