News. Rafa confirms Merino return

24 Nov 17

Newcastle United boss Rafa Benítez has confirmed that Mikel Merino will return to the squad for Saturday’s visit of Watford (3pm kick-off).

Merino has been sidelined with a back injury since scoring the winner in the 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace last month.

But manager Benítez has confirmed that, while this weekend’s clash with the Hornets comes too soon for a trio of his charges, the Spanish midfielder is set to be welcomed back into the fold.

“It’s still too soon for some players. (Paul) Dummett, (Christian) Atsu, (Jamaal) Lascelles are still recovering, but Merino has been training, doing a full training session. He is available, and he will be in the squad,” said the Magpies boss.

“To have him coming back is good news for everyone here.”

When asked about full back Dummett, who is also back in full training, Benítez added: “He is close, but it’s been a long time. Still, he has to have more confidence to go to do exactly what we are expecting in a game.”

The Hornets arrive at St. James’ Park sitting eighth in the Premier League table – four points ahead of United – after an impressive start to the campaign under new manager Marco Silva.

“He’s doing well,” said Benítez of the former Hull City boss. “I have said about four or five teams that have been in the Premier League for two or three years – they have some good players, and the manager can find the right system and combination of players, they can do well. They are one of them.

“They’re doing really well. We have been watching some games, and that is the reason why I always say it is a tough game. Every game in the Premier League for us will be a tough game.”

United go in search of their first win in four this weekend, having suffered three successive defeats.

But Benítez says his young team are working hard to put an end to that run, and he believes there is still plenty to come from his side.

“This group of players are keen to learn, and when we talk analyse and watch the videos and see the things we are doing right or badly, they are quite happy to go on the pitch and keep training,” he said.

“We will be better – I am saying always that this team will be better. The question is if in the meantime you can get good results, it will give you more confidence. In the second part of the league, we will have this experience that we are missing now, and we will be better.”

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