Newcastle to step up January hunt for attacking reinforcements after striker blow

Newcastle United's need for attacking reinforcements has been highlighted further by the news that Yoshinori Muto could miss five games in the New Year.

Tuesday, 18th December 2018, 3:54 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th December 2018, 3:58 pm
Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez.

The Magpies are set to be without the striker for most of January after he was called into Japan's Asian Cup squad.

The Newcastle forward was not named in Hajime Moriyasu's initial 23-man squad, but has now been called up for the Cup, which will take place in the United Arab Emirates from January 5 to February 1, 2019.

He will join up with his international colleagues after the Magpies' home game against Manchester United on Wednesday, January 2 and could miss four league games as well as the Emirates FA Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The 26-year-old - who joined Newcastle from Mainz 05 in the summer after playing in the 2018 World Cup finals for his country - has scored just once in 11 appearances so far for Rafa Benítez's side.

His only goal came at Old Trafford, one of five starts Muto has made since his summer switch, with Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez establishing themselves as Rafa Benitez's No 1 strike partnership.

However, Muto's absence will leave just Joselu as back-up unless Newcastle move swiftly in the transfer market.

Benitez has spoken of his desire to get players signed quickly in January, rather than wait until the end of the month as Newcastle did last year when Islam Slimani, Kenedy and Martin Dubravka came in just before the window closed.

Miguel Almiron, the Paraguayan forward, has been linked with a move to St James's Park but Benitez admitted this week that he still doesn't know his budget for January's business.

As well as the Blackburn game, Muto could miss the trip to Chelsea, home games against Cardiff City and Manchester City, and the visit to Spurs if Japan - who have won the tournament a record four times - progress all the way to the final.

Muto's Magpies team-mate Ki Sung-yueng will represent South Korea in the competition. Ki revealed earlier this week that he is still in negotiations over his departure, but that the home game against Fulham on Saturday could be his last appearance for Newcastle.

Asked when he had to meet up with his international team-mates, Ki said: “I don’t know. It isn’t confirmed yet, but, by the FIFA rules, it’s two weeks before the first game, so it could be after next week.

“I think they’re talking, there are negotiations, so it’s too many games I’ll be missing. It depends on the games.

“The final is on February 1, so it’s quite a long time.

“But I don’t want to be greedy, because we have good players. If I can’t play, I can’t play. Also, it’s crucial for my country. They haven’t won it for nearly 60 years. I can’t be in two places at once.”

South Korea opened their Asian Cup campaign with a game against the Philippines on January 7 in Dubai. And Ki wants to help Newcastle record another win before he leaves Tyneside.

“I’m happy we’ve put this run of form together before I leave,” said Ki.

“I don’t know when I’m going to leave, because there are not many games left in which I can play.

“So as much as I can, I try to win every game, and then of course I feel a little sorry for the team, as they’re in the middle of the season, but at least we’re in good shape.

“I don’t know when I come back if my place will be there, but I’m very pleased and satisfied so far with the team and everything I play for.”