Eddie Howe answers Alexsander Isak 'setback' question as Newcastle United striker pushes to return
Isak, sidelined since September with a thigh injury, is in Saudi Arabia with his team-mates for the club’s winter training camp.
However, the 23-year-old didn’t train with the group yesterday, and he won’t be involved in Thursday’s friendly against Al Hilal or the December 17 warm-up match against Rayo Vallecano on Tyneside.
And Howe has revealed that Isak may not be fit in time for the December 21 Carabao Cup tie against Bournemouth at St James’s Park and the Boxing Day home game against Leicester City.
"I don't expect him to feature in those games,” said United's head coach. “We'll try and get him for Bournemouth or Leicester, but we'll have to see how it goes."
Isak scored two goals from three starts after joining from Real Sociedad in a club-record £60million deal in the summer.
"He's doing well. This was the plan. We didn't expect him to train with the group when we first started training so he's with the sports scientist team and physios.
"We’re building him up in a controlled way, and we expect him to be very close for Bournemouth or Leicester. We're not sure if he'll be fit or available for those games yet."
Isak suffered a setback in October, but Howe insists that is not the case this time.
"No, there's no setback,” said Howe. “There was an initial setback when he re-injured his thigh, and, as a consequence of that, we just want to make sure we get him fully fit.
"He's a player we've really liked, and missed and he'll give us lots of qualities we feel the team needs. We're really excited to try and get him back."
Meanwhile, Howe is happy with the fitness levels of his players – who were given a fortnight off after the win over Chelsea last month – ahead of the restart.
"First thing we did is the test the players, and find out where they were physically compared to the tests we did during pre-season,” said Howe. "And from those tests, the players were in a good place.”