It was a mixed bag of news from the Magpies boss, who revealed that three players are struggling with minor knocks, while two are certainly available to play at St James’ Park.
“[Fabian] Schar is fine,” he said at his pre match press conference, as per journalist Lee Ryder’s personal Twitter account. “We have some little problems with [Isaac] Hayden, [Mohamed] Diame and [DeAndre] Yedlin. We will see.”
The Spaniard also had an update on mercurial midfielder Jonjo Shelvey: “He is available but we will see if he starts,” he said.
— Lee Ryder (@lee_ryder) April 5, 2019
This update is neither wholly positive nor definitively negative. It’s fantastic news, first and foremost, that Schar is fit and healthy after his scary concussion issue on international duty. The Swiss star has missed the team’s last two games through suspension, so it will be a major boost to have him back in the fold against the dangerous Eagles. As for Shelvey, it doesn’t appear certain whether Benitez was talking about his fitness or merely where he stands in terms of selection. Clearly the England international is good to go, but Benitez is merely unsure as to whether he will start. Given that the manager also mentions that central midfielders Diame and Hayden both have knocks it’s slightly strange that he felt the need to question Shelvey’s chances of starting. If both Diame and Hayden are out, having started the last game, that will be a big blow, particularly Hayden’s potential absence. Yedlin would also be a heavy loss, with Javier Manquillo not quite stacking up as his back up.