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Newcastle United looks set to face Manchester United on 18 November without Jamaal Lascelles and Mikel Merino, with the Spanish media reporting that the latter could be sidelined with injury for six to eight weeks.
Influential midfielder Merino, who first arrived at St James’ Park on an initial loan spell from Borussia Dortmund but later committed to a permanent deal for the Magpies three months later, came in as a substitute to score a late winner on his last appearance against Crystal Palace but was absent during the back-to-back 1-0 loss to Burnley and Bournemouth due to a lower back injury.
Manager Rafael Benitez initially expected his countryman, who was being attended to by a specialist, to be on the bench for at least two weeks and hinted that he could be out of action for a longer period depending on how he responds to treatment.
Talking to the press at the Newcastle United Foundation’s annual charity dinner this week, Benitez revealed that Merino was “getting better a little bit more every day” and that it would be revealed next week if the injury would keep him out for longer than a fortnight.
However, Spanish sports daily Diario AS, as quoted by Sport Witness, now claim that the 21-year-old, withdrawn from Spain’s Under-21 European Championship qualifying double header against Iceland and Slovakia, could be unfit to grace the pitch for up to two months with a problem in his vertebrae. However, it is not clear if the stipulated return date counts from now or is backdated to when he first sustained the injury.
Newcastle captain Lascelles, on the other hand, was taken off the pitch 10 minutes into the second half against Bournemouth after failing to recuperate from a left ankle injury picked up before the break. He was sent off the pitch wearing crutches and a protective boot.
Benitez is concerned as to whether the centre-back will be fit to face United at Old Trafford, stating that his recovery process with the physios was moving at a slow pace and that they a couple of days for the swelling to come down to properly assess the state of the ankle.
“We will see with Jamaal,” he added, per the Evening Chronicle. “It’s very difficult for both of them [Lascelles and Merino] for Man United. If it was fine now, maybe you have one week of training but if not – even if he is fit, he will not be ready physically – it will be two weeks without training and you may not be physically ready for a game like that.”