There's some welcome injury news for those of a Newcastle persuasion this week, as manager Rafa Benitez has confirmed that Florian Lejeune is back in light training, and looks set to return 'sooner than expected'.
The centre-back suffered an ACL injury in July which looked like it would keep him out for most of the season, forcing Benitez into the market to sign Swansea's Federico Fernandez as a replacement, but according to the Spanish boss, signs now look good for a return to action ahead of schedule.
Giving credit to the specialists who operated on Lejeune in August, Benitez told the Shields Gazette: “The Italian people who did the operation are around, checking, and he’s fine.
“I don’t want to be too optimistic, but he’s had a couple of training sessions doing the warm-up with the team. On the ball, he can do almost everything, but he has to improve. He has to be stronger, quicker, and after he has to train with the team.
“After training with the team for a while, we can take the risk of playing him in games. It’s going really well. We’ll see how long it takes, but I think it will be sooner than everybody was expecting at the beginning.”
In his first season at Newcastle, Lejeune established himself as one of their first choice centre-backs for large spells, making 24 Premier League starts, before falling out of the team with a minor injury towards the end of the campaign.
He looked set to be an important part of a strong back line in the early stages of this campaign, with Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar offering impressive depth in the central defensive positions, but Lejeune's injury threw a spanner in the works.
While it's unclear, though, just when he will be back in the starting XI, Benitez's words suggest it should be sooner rather than later, and he will offer a boost to their chances of fighting out of their current predicament near the foot of the table.