Rafa Benitez reacts to the return of Jamaal Lascelles – and reflects on Jacob Murphy’s run in his Newcastle team

Jamaal Lascelles
Jamaal Lascelles

Jamaal Lascelles has been leading from the sidelines during his time on the sidelines.

Newcastle United’s captain is set to return from injury against Leicester City at St James’s Park this afternoon (5.30pm kick-off) after recovering from an ankle injury.

The Toon defence has missed Lascelles’ presence and aerial ability.

Asked if his team had also missed Lascelles’ leadership, manager Rafa Benitez said: “Sometimes just to be around and to shout is a big thing for the others.

“But I cannot complain, because the others have worked so hard. You cannot make an excuse.”

Lascelles and Newcastle team-mate Matt Ritchie are the joint-winners of the North East Football Writers’ Association’s player of the year award.

The competition between players had been quite good, and to bring them (Lascelles and Atsu) back is good.

Rafa Benitez

The pair were key figures in last season’s Championship-winning campaign.

“I think that both played really well for us,” said Benitez.

“It was a great season last season, and this year they’ve started really well.

“I’m not surprised you (football writers) have given them (that award).

“They represent the pride and the passion and the commitment that everybody is expecting from Newcastle players. They’re a good example of that.”

Meanwhile, winger Christian Atsu is also available after recovering from a thigh injury.

Jacob Murphy has had a run in Benitez’s team in the absence of Atsu. The 22-year-old was voted the club’s player of the month for November.

“The competition between players had been quite good, and to bring them (Lascelles and Atsu) back is good,” said Benitez. “But, at the same time, when you lose players then others can show you the level that they can reach or the potential they have.

“It’s normal, but that’s the key when you talk about the squad. It’s not just 15 or 16 players. Across the course of a season, you need more players – and you need more players of the same level.”