Fabricio Coloccini’s battling to be fit for the Tyne-Wear derby.
Newcastle United’s captain has been sidelined for more than a month with a calf problem.
It is difficult to say when a player has been injured for a few weeks, after it is not easy. We will have to train and then we will have a clearer idea.Rafa Benitez
And new manager Rafa Benitez – whose side were beaten by Leicester City on Monday night – will assess Coloccini’s fitness this week ahead of Sunderland’s visit to St James’s Park on Sunday.
Second-bottom United desperately need a win to lift themselves out of the Premier League’s relegation zone.
Asked if Coloccini would be fit for the derby, Benitez said: “We will have to check during the week.
“It is difficult to say when a player has been injured for a few weeks, after it is not easy. We will have to train and then we will have a clearer idea.”
Midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, signed by Benitez at Liverpool, has been captaining the team in Coloccini’s absence.
“The captain situation, some people think it is important,” said Benitez.
“Now, I don’t think it makes a big difference. We need characters on the pitch and in the training sessions.”
Striker Papiss Cisse, sidelined since late last year, is also close to a return from a groin problem, and he could yet be involved in the derby.
“We will see,” said Benitez. “We have some players like (Andros) Townsend who has come back.
“We now have Cisse coming back, but we will see in the training session.
“To take a risk with a player who is not fully fit is difficult.
“But if he scores two or three goals in the training session, then we will have to change our mind.”