Rafa Benitez reacts to Mikel Merino's return for Newcastle
Mikel Merino is ready to put his back into Newcastle United's Premier League campaign '“ after returning from injury.
Merino is in the squad for this afternoon’s home game against Watford.
There were fears that the midfielder would be sidelined until the New Year.
However, Merino – who suffered a back problem last month and has missed the club’s last three games – made a successful return to training this week.
Benitez will again be without Jamaal Lascelles (ankle), Christian Atsu (thigh) and Paul Dummett (hamstring).
Asked about the club’s injury situation, United manager Benitez said: “It’s getting better, but still too soon (for some players).
“Dummett, Lascelles and Atsu are recovering.
“Merino’s doing full training sessions and he will be in the squad.
“He’s been training for last three or four days.
“When you lose a player, always you need another to replace him, and Merino did well before his injury, so it’s good news to have him back.”
Dummett has been sidelined since Newcastle’s season-opening game against Tottenham Hotspur.
The defender has been stepping up his workload in training in recent weeks, but he’s not yet ready to return to competitive action.
Benitez added: “Dummett’s close, but he still has to have more confidence to do exactly what we want from him.”
Meanwhile, Benitez is expecting a “tough game” against eighth-placed Watford, whose manager, Marco Silva, was a target for Everton after they dismissed Ronald Koeman.
“He’s doing well,” said Benitez.
“Watford are one of four or five teams who have been in the Premier League for the last two or three years.
“They have good players, and the manager has found the right combination.
“He’s doing really well, and we’ve been watching some of their games. It’ll be a tough game.”