Aleksandar Mitrovic is set to give injury-hit Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez a big lift – by declaring himself fit for next week’s FA Cup fourth round tie.
Mitrovic suffered a deep cut on his leg in the Magpies’ third-round tie against Birmingham City at St Andrew’s earlier this month.
Benitez also lost leading scorer Dwight Gayle to a hamstring problem in last weekend’s Championship win over Brentford.
And Gayle’s injury left Benitez with just one fit senior striker – ex-Sunderland and Ipswich frontman Daryl Murphy.
But Mitrovic is set to be available for the fourth-round tie away to League One side Oxford United next Saturday.
Asked about Mitrovic’s likely return, manager Benitez said: “I’m quite optimistic.
“He is doing well. He has no stitches now. He can bend the knee.
“I’m quite positive. You see him walking now, he is fine.
“For Mitro, next week is not too early for him. We will see. It’s not a massive injury.”
Benitez, however, is not putting a precise timescale on the return of Gayle, though he hopes to have the 20-goal striker back next month.
“I don’t have the timescale, but he’s doing well, improving every day,” said Benitez.
“Mitro is a different thing, he will be sooner than Gayle.”
Meanwhile, Brighton leapfrogged Newcastle into top spot in the Championship last night, with Anthony Knockaert’s double clinching a dramatic 2-1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday.
Brighton had Glenn Murray sent off before the Owls’ Steven Fletcher and Sam Hutchinson were dismissed in the closing stages.