Rafa Benitez has revealed that he is hopeful Jonjo Shelvey will be available for selection after the international break. The Newcastle United boss admitted that the Magpies are missing their midfield general, as they struggle to leap forward into the new Premier League campaign.
Shelvey first picked up a thigh strain in pre-season and sat out the 4-0 defeat to Portuguese side Braga before declaring himself fit for the opening two fixtures against Tottenham and Cardiff, only to be taken out of action by the club's medical team.
There are concerns Shelvey could aggravate the injury and face a lengthy lay-off, so he has been kept out of action for the last two games. Newcastle’s tough start was made worse after they were eliminated from the Carabao Cup in midweek thanks to a 3-1 defeat to Championship side Nottingham Forest.
Benitez admitted Shelvey’s presence was noticeably absent in the performance but will not risk him for the Manchester City clash.
Benitez told the Chronicle: “He was playing with some pain. We were managing the training and he said to us that he wanted to carry on. Eventually, we had to say to him that he could not anymore, it was dangerous. He is so keen to play and so positive, we had to stop him.”
The Spaniard has challenged Shelvey’s teammates, in particular Ki Sung-yueng, to step up to the challenge in order to fill the void left by his absence.
“Each player is different. Jonjo is one of our best at long passes. He is only good in our team when the players around him show personality and understanding,” he added.
“Are we losing something without Jonjo? Yes. Can we do something similar with others? Maybe. The key is not just him, it’s about others and what they do and how they behave.
“If we have no runners it makes no sense to make long passes. If Ki has runners he will play these passes, as he did against Nottingham.”
Having already lost to Tottenham and Chelsea this season, Benitez’s approach to facing top-six sides has been criticised this past week ahead of the City fixture.
His tactics of handing over possession to the opposition were a particularly polarising topic for pundits, as Newcastle recorded the fifth lowest possession split in Premier League history against Chelsea.
The Spaniard also responded to the criticism saying: “Everybody has views after the game. Everybody has an opinion before the game. I know my players, I know what we have; we have to manage with the squad we have, and maybe that’s the way.
“We look for different options and we analyse, of course, we do, but we do what’s good for us and we finished 10th. We’ll carry on like that and, if we can adjust things to do even better, then we will try to do it.”