SIEM de Jong and Gabriel Obertan are ready to return for Newcastle United – and give John Carver a much-needed lift.
The pair played in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Carlisle United yesterday.
De Jong, sidelined for the past four and a half months, scored in a 3-1 win for Newcastle at the club’s Benton training ground.
Lubomir Satka and Jonathyn Quinn also found the net.
And de Jong and Obertan could be involved against Hull City on Saturday.
Mehdi Abeid – who missed out on a place in Algeria’s African Cup of Nations squad because of a broken toe – played in the friendly, and is pushing for a start at the KC Stadium.
Midfielder Jonas Gutierrez, steadily improving his fitness after winning his battle against cancer, also played.
But it is the imminent return of de Jong, signed from Ajax last summer, which is most significant for a team which has lacked goals and guile in recent months.
De Jong suffered a serious thigh injury in training in early September.
After the game, the 25-year-old said he was “almost there” on Twitter.
He tweeted: “Played 45 minutes today in a friendly game! #almostthere.”
De Jong and Obertan – who ruptured a thigh muscle against Liverpool in early November – both had to undergo surgery after suffering their respective injuries.
And Carver will speak to the club’s medical staff before making a decision on whether to involve them against Hull. De Jong travelled to Dubai for last week’s warm-weather training camp.
“It’s a big difference to me just being able to train with the group,” said de Jong. “It feels good.
“I still have to get more training sessions and some minutes with the under-21s in the coming weeks to get up to full strength – especially if I want to play long parts of a game.”
Obertan did not travel to Dubai, but he trained with his colleagues after their return to Tyneside late last week.
And he and de Jong could also be play for the Under-21s against West Bromwich Albion at Whitley Park, Benton, on Monday night.
Meanwhile, winger Rolando Aarons is pencilled in to return next month from the hamstring problem he suffered in early November.
Aarons made an explosive start to the season after forcing his way into then-manager Alan Pardew’s first-team plans.