Rafa Benitez says the imminent return of Vurnon Anita is timely – after he lost Isaac Hayden for four weeks.
Newcastle United midfielder Hayden yesterday underwent ankle surgery.
And the 21-year-old will miss the home double header against Aston Villa and Bristol City as well as the club’s trips to Brighton and Hove Albion, Huddersfield Town and Reading.
Hayden, an unused substitute for the club’s last two fixtures, had been playing through the pain barrier for the Championship leaders.
“He had a little problem with his ankle that we were trying to manage,” said Benitez, whose side take on struggling Villa at St James’s Park on Monday night.
“But in the end he was not comfortable with it and we had to do the operation. He was doing well, and was a key player for us. Now, we have to cope with the others.”
Anita, meanwhile, suffered ankle ligament damage in last month’s win over Brentford at Griffin Park.
The 27-year-old returned to training yesterday, and could even make the bench against Villa.
Versatile Anita, used primarily as a right-back by Benitez, can play in midfield, where Jack Colback is set for an extended run in the team.
“Hopefully, Anita will be fine,” said United manager Benitez.
“He trained (on Friday), not a full training session, but he has been working with us. He will give us different options.
“Anita was doing part of the training session, and he could maybe be ready for Monday.
“If not, he could maybe be ready for being on the bench. We will have to decide.
“We are losing one player that was playing, but we are gaining one that was doing well when he left.
“He was playing as a right full-back, but he is also a player who can play in three positions and understand the game.”