Newcastle United updates on injuries, Alexander Isak, World Cup players – and Eddie Howe's 'mini' pre-season
Newcastle United return to competitive action next week after a break for the World Cup finals.
Eddie Howe’s team, 5-0 winners over Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia last week, take on Real Vallecano at home on Saturday ahead of the December 21 fourth-round Carabao Cup tie against Bournemouth at St James’s Park.
The story so far
Howe gave his non-international players a fortnight off after last month’s 1-0 win over Chelsea. The result saw the club move up to third place in the Premier League.
Five players – Callum Wilson, Kieran Trippier, Nick Pope, Fabian Schar and Bruno Guimaraes – headed off for World Cup duty with England, Switzerland and Brazil. Garang Kuol – who will join Newcastle next month – was also at the tournament with Australia.
Newcastle’s players have had two games – a training ground fixture against Middlesbrough, and a friendly against Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia – since reporting back to the club for what was described as a “mini” pre-season.
Howe and his players returned from their week-long training camp in Riyadh on Saturday.
What Howe has said
Howe gave an update on preparations for the restart after the Al Hilal game. Joelinton and Miguel Almiron scored two goals apiece, while substitute Dylan Stephenson netted on his debut.
“We’ve had three hard days (in Riyadh),” said United’s head coach. “I don’t think they’ve been crazy, pre-season level. I think it’s a slightly different feel, as it’s only been two weeks since they stopped training, not a four, five-week gap.
“They’ve had three tough days training, and I think that showed. We weren’t electric. I think we needed the minutes, and we’ll be better for it. I think the lads are in a good place, but we’ve still got time to get them super sharp.”
The latest with injuries
The win over Al Hilal came at a cost. Joelinton and Chris Wood, Howe’s only fit and available senior striker at the time, limped off during the game.
“I think Chris has just got a back problem,” said Howe. “I don’t think it’s too bad. Joelinton felt a tightness in his hamstring. I don’t think it’s a pull or anything. Fingers cross, they’re not too bad.”
Howe is hopeful that club-record signing Alexander Isak, sidelined since September, will be ready for the restart.
“We'll try and get him for Bournemouth or Leicester (on Boxing Day), but we'll have to see how it goes," said Howe. "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."
United’s World Cup players
Howe will have all of his internationals back ahead of the Bournemouth game following England and Brazil’s quarter-final, though they may not play straight away.
"I think we'll take it on an individual basis,” said Howe. "Speaking to all the players, I know they're very keen to come back and join us very quickly, but of course, we have to have the balance right.
"We don't want to fatigue players mentally probably more than physically going into the second half of the season.
"At some stage, we will probably need to give them a break."