Key players might be missing - but training at United just smiles better
PICTURES SHOW SQUAD IN GOOD SPIRITS WITH BIG BRIGHTON CLASH A WEEK AWAY
THE first week international break is a strange time for those Newcastle United players who have not received call-ups to their respective countries.
With a fortnight’s gap between matches, non-internationals have plenty of time to prepare for the huge home clash with Brighton a week today.
Yet the issue with players being away on international duty is Rafa Benitez does not have a full complement of players to work with.
Given a decent number of internationals are likely to start against Brighton, it is also difficult for Benitez to practise specific set-piece moves and tactical systems without those players present.
Yet such a scenario also hands unexpected opportunities to promising youngsters, while the international break also gives injured players the chance to recover from their ailments.
With Newcastle having released photos from one of their sessions this week, NUFC writer Chris Waugh takes us through six things he spotted from United training... PAUL DUMMETT IS BACK IN
The 27-year-old has missed Newcastle’s last two outings with a hamstring injury and also pulled out of Wales’ squad for the games against Spain and the Republic of Ireland.
However, seemingly the leftback is closing in on a Magpies return and will hope to be fit to take on the Seagulls having returned to full training.
With Kenedy and Javier Manquillo having deputised on the left defensive flank in recent weeks, Dummett regaining his fitness will be seen as a major boost for Benitez.
LEWIS CASS IS GETTING A CHANCE
WITH THE FIRST TEAM
The international break often throws up opportunities for under23 players to train with the first team, Benitez regularly calling across reinforcements from Little Benton to fill in for the positions he has been left short by players having departed to represent their respective countries.
On this occasion, full-back Lewis Cass was the beneficiary, the North Shields-born youngster pictured mixing it with the first-team squad.
The boyhood Newcastle fan signed a professional deal with the Magpies in July and 18-year-old Cass is seen as one of the mostpromising youngsters in the United set up.
THE LESSER-SPOTTED ROB ELLIOT CONTINUES TO TRAIN HARD Without a first-team appearance all season - or at all in 2018 - it has been a frustrating start to the campaign for Elliot .
Since being dropped at the end of 2017 - his last appearance was against Manchester City on December 27 last year - Elliot has found himself sliding down the goalkeeping pecking order.
He is now third choice behind both Martin Dubravka and Karl Darlow.
With highly-rated England under-21 international Freddie Woodman also pushing for a firstteam place at Newcastle, Elliot faces an uncertain United future but continues to show he is a model professional by training hard with the Magpies.
SPIRITS SEEM HIGH, DESPITE THE
Benitez himself has admitted in recent weeks his players would not be human if their confidence had not taken a hit given Newcastle’s winless start to the campaign - and the cruel manner of the defeat at Old Trafford will have been difficult for the United squad to take.
However, the Magpies dressing room is resilient - they came through a nine-game winless run last season and finished the campaign strongly - and the mood remains as upbeat as it could be given the team’s current plight.
Captain Jamaal Lascelles is pictured laughing in training, Joselu is enjoying himself too, while Jacob Murphy even plays up for the cam-
era by ensuring he is snapped leaping in the air.
BENITEZ IS AS FOCUSED AS EVER
During the last international break, some Premier League managers opted to take time off.
For example, West Ham United boss Manuel Pellegrini returned to Chile for a short spell.
However,, aside from a day or two back on Merseyside visiting his family, Benitez uses these fortnights in order to address his side’s shortcomings.
Pictured wearing the lightweight cast on his wrist which he has sported on occasions in recent months, Benitez is shown leading a session at the club’s Benton Training Centre. SEAN Longstaff is now a permanent fixture at first-team training.
He may have yet to have been granted a Premier League debut but midfielder Longstaff really is a fully-fledged member of the Newcastle firstteam squad.
Having made his senior debut against Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup back in August, Longstaff has been on the bench for league matches on a few occasions since.
He has also impressed during two Checkatrade Trophy appearances.
Mo Diame and Jonjo Shelvey may be the first-choice centralmidfield pairing but Longstaff is now competing with Isaac Hayden and Ki Sung-yueng to be considered as their deputy - and the Newcastle-supporting midfielder is training with the full squad on a daily basis now.
Under-23 player Lewis Cass is getting a chance to shine
Rob Elliot is still training hard
Rafa is as focused as ever to try and get much-needed results Spirits are still high as Jonjo Shelvey (top left), Jacob Murphy and Jamaal Lascelles (below) show