Rafa Benitez assesses Jonjo Shelvey's hopes of an early return for Newcastle

Jonjo Shelvey is facing several weeks on the sidelines at Newcastle United.
Jonjo ShelveyJonjo Shelvey
Jonjo Shelvey

The midfielder suffered a knee injury in last weekend’s 2-2 draw against Bournemouth.

Shelvey’s also nursing a groin problem.

The 26-year-old will be sidelined for at least a fortnight.

Newcastle are without a game for 21 days this month, meaning the earliest Shelvey could be back on the pitch is March 31, when Huddersfield Town visit St James’s Park.

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“He had a knock and then we had to wait for the scan,” said United manager Rafa Benitez, whose side take on Liverpool at Anfield this evening.

“He has been training with a groin problem, but now we just need to wait and see what the scan says about his knee.

“Then, after that, we can see how long. The groin will not keep him out. At the moment, it’s his knee (that’s keeping him out).”

Benitez is hopeful that Shelvey will be back within weeks, and not months.

“I think we have to be optimistic,” added Benitez.

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“We have to wait now, and we cannot say how long at the moment, but at least it’s maybe this week or next week we will see. Maybe it will be too early.”

Mikel Merino and Isaac Hayden are pushing to replace Shelvey in Benitez’s starting XI.

“Now we have to change something,” said Benitez.

“He’s not available, and he was doing well for us, but we have enough competition that we can cope.

“Merino, Hayden and (Mohamed) Diame – the three of them are working so hard.

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“The good thing about this group is that they train well and then they put you under pressure to make a decision.”

Striker Dwight Gayle – who was forced off against Bournemouth with a “tight” hamstring – is available to face Liverpool along with winger Matt Ritchie, who had a knock.

“Gayle’s fine and so is Ritchie,” said Benitez.

Meanwhile, on-loan striker Islam Slimani (thigh) is working in the gym.