Islam Slimani could have to wait until the end of March to make his Newcastle United debut.
The striker, signed on loan from Leicester City, has suffered a setback on his return from a thigh injury.
We think it could be two or three weeks, it just depends. It’s unlucky for us, but it’s like this.Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez doesn’t expect Slimani to be available for the March 10 home game against Southampton, which will be followed by a three-week break if Tottenham Hotspur beat Rochdale in a fifth-round FA Cup replay.
And Slimani’s first appearance for Newcastle could come against Huddersfield Town at St James’s Park on March 31.
“When we signed Islam, we knew he had a little bit of an injury, but he’s been training and doing well,” said United manager Benitez.
“He was just feeling the injury a little bit, so we made sure we were cautious with him at the beginning.
“On Friday (last week), I was watching him running in training, and he looked fine. He was working with the physios and the fitness coach and he did everything that we asked.
“And then on Tuesday we were training and were working on possession, he was feeling really well ,but then he kicked the ball and just felt something.
“Things like that can happen. Now we have to be sure we go back and control everything for the next time.
“But he’s fine in himself. He’s positive and he’s telling me ‘oh, I feel fine, I can turn, I can spring’, but just with this gesture of kicking the ball he felt something at the top (of his thigh).”
Slimani hasn’t suffered a tear, according to Benitez.
“No,” said Benitez. “We think it could be two or three weeks, it just depends. It’s unlucky for us, but it’s like this.
“We have two bits of good news. The first is that we just have Slimani and Gamez out, so our injury record’s quite good.
“The second bit of good news is that team’s doing well. If we can continue to play like this, we can win games and it means that Slimani can give us something more at the end of the season.”