Newcastle United have been left to sweat on the fitness of two key first-team regulars in the shape of Jamaal Lascelles and Jonjo Shelvey ahead of their trip to Selhurst Park this weekend.
Speak to any Magpies fan and they’ll be quick to tell you just how important captain Lascelles is to their general play from week to week. Still just 24, the defender has been a key part of Rafa Benitez’s side since the promotion campaign Newcastle enjoyed in 2016-17. That season he made a total of 47 appearances in black and white, leading by example from the back and hasn’t slowed down at all since making the step up to the Premier League.
Selected in the starting line-up for their recent home defeat against Arsenal, Lascelles was forced off having twisted his ankle, only for the Gunners to score both their goals in the 15 minutes immediately after his departure. Admittedly, his direct replacement Ciaran Clark did grab a consolation goal for the hosts in the final moments but by then, the damage had already been done.
Speaking after the game, Benitez himself said:
“He twisted his ankle, so now we have to assess and decide. To play against Crystal Palace, Leicester and Manchester United in the next games is not easy.”
The mere fact that the Spaniard is speaking two games in advance of this weekend’s meeting suggests that Lascelles is a major doubt for the trip to Selhurst Park, whilst Shelvey is also touch and go. The playmaker was deemed fit enough to make it onto the bench against Unai Emery’s men but wasn’t brought on at any stage, despite the game slowly drifting out of the hosts’ grasp in the second half.
Another full week of training should mean he’s fit and ready to start against Palace but without any first-hand update on how he’s managed in the sessions since the weekend, it’s difficult to know how much progress the former Liverpool midfielder has made towards a comeback.
I dare say we’ll have more of an insight into preparations once Benitez has been quizzed by the press.