Rafa Benitez has a warning for Islam Slimani ahead of his Newcastle comeback

Islam Slimani
Islam Slimani

Rafa Benitez has told Islam Slimani that he won’t walk straight into his Newcastle United starting XI.

The on-loan striker is yet to make his debut for the club, having been sidelined with a thigh injury since joining from Leicester City in January.

The competition now is quite good. And Islam Slimani, when he comes back to fitness, will have to compete with them.

Rafa Benitez

Slimani, however, still linked up with Algeria last week. And the 29-year-old could make his comeback against Iran in Austria tonight, having sat out last week’s fixture against Tanzania.

United manager Rafa Benitez hopes that Slimani will be available for Saturday’s home game against Huddersfield Town on his return to Tyneside.

“He has confidence in himself, which is positive, but he has to show us this in the training sessions and with his country, then we will see what happens against Huddersfield,” said Benitez.

Dwight Gayle has been preferred to Joselu up front in recent months.

The striker took his goal tally for the season to five with a double in last month’s 2-2 draw against Bournemouth.

Asked about Gayle’s form, Benitez said: “He’s fine. He’s doing well. Joselu’s not been playing too much at the moment, but whenever he’s on the bench, he’s positive too.

“Joselu plays 10 or 15 minutes at the end of games. He’s giving us control and something different. The competition now is quite good.

“And Islam Slimani, when he comes back to fitness, will have to compete with them.”