Rafa Benitez warns of Islam Slimani ‘risk’ and reveals why he won’t walk into Newcastle’s starting XI

Islam Slimani
Islam Slimani

Rafa Benitez says it will be a “risk” if Islam Slimani plays for Algeria during the international break.

The on-loan frontman is yet to make his debut for Newcastle United.

What we have to do and what we want to do is be sure that he’s fit. And if he can play with the national team a little bit, that is a risk, because he’s not playing for us.

Slimani has been sidelined with a thigh injury since joining the club from Leicester City in January.

The 29-year-old wasn’t involved in Sunday’s friendly against Royal Antwerp in Spain, having been restricted to gym work last week.

However, Slimani still linked up with his international team-mates this week ahead of games against Tanzania and Iran.

Benitez expects Slimani to get some minutes on the pitch for his country ahead of the March 31 home game against Huddersfield Town.

“What we have to do and what we want to do is be sure that he’s fit,” said Benitez.

“And if he can play with the national team a little bit, that is a risk, because he’s not playing for us.

“Bu if they decide to play him, it is because he will be fit.

“Hopefully, he won’t have any problems. It is something we know we cannot control.

“If he’s fine, it means he will have more chances to compete against the others.”

Benitez has told Slimani that he can’t expect to walk into his starting XI when he does prove his fitness.

United’s manager has been pleased with the response of Dwight Gayle and Joselu to his arrival.

“If they are doing well, he (Slimani) has to be better than them,” said Benitez. “It’s not as if he will come and go straight (into the team) and make the difference.

“The others are doing well, and he has to compete with them. It’s positive, because we have more competition in one position.”