Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has given some hope to outcast defender Chancel Mbemba of saving his career on Tyneside.
The Congolese defender has played a collective total of just 672 minutes in the Premier League this season, making only five starts. He has not featured at all in the league since December and his only outing in 2018 was in the Magpies FA Cup defeat to Chelsea in January.
Newcastle have found form recently - winning their last four Premier League ties - with captain Jamaal Lascelles and Florian Lejeune a settled partnership in defence.
However, speaking ahead of his side’s game against Everton on Monday, Benitez admitted other players (including Mbemba) could be given the chance for minutes in the final five games of the campaign, as he begins to make plans for his squad for 2018/19.
“He was training [on Friday] – and training well – but the problem sometimes is, when the team are winning and you already have, in this case, four players in this position, it’s not easy for everyone in these times,” Benitez said, via the Chronicle Live.
"With five games left maybe he will have a chance, we will see, he’s training well.”
However, Benitez's sign of hope was also tinged with a warning, as the former Liverpool boss challenged 'some players' to give him a reason to be kept on the books at St. James' Park beyond the summer.
“Now is maybe the time that some players need to prove themselves,” Benitez continued.
“So maybe I will make some changes to make sure that some players are given a chance to impress the staff and then think about their future, some players are playing for their futures.”
Benitez will inevitably need to identify players to sell this summer, in order to generate funds for new transfers. 23-year-old Mbemba, who joined the club in 2015 from Anderlecht, will understand the implicit message from his manager and may have precious few chances to save his career in the Premier League.