Newcastle hopeful that injured pair will be back to face Southampton

Matt Ritchie
Matt Ritchie

Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez is hopeful that injured duo Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu should be fit for the trip to Southampton.

The wing duo both had to be withdrawn from their respective international squads this week, after picking up niggles in the Premier League home draw with Liverpool last weekend.

Reports in Africa over the last 24 hours confirmed that Atsu would not take part in Ghana’s World Cup qualifier against Uganda tomorrow due to a calf problem.

The Magpies winger was due to captain the Black Stars side for the match in Kampala.

Ritchie was also taken out of the Scotland squad for their crucial qualifiers against Slovakia last night and Slovenia in midweek.

And while the pair will both be assessed by the club’s medical staff, hopes are high that they will both be fit and available for the St Mary’s trip.

On Atsu, Benitez explained: “He has a little bit of discomfort in his knee and we have to manage it carefully.”

Despite being a key member of his United XI, Benitez revealed that Ritchie may have been suffering a little bit of fatigue from his frenetic return to Premier League football.

“Matt Ritchie has been playing too many games,” said Benitez. “He was working very hard and has had a little bit of discomfort lately.

“There have been a few little things he has been talking about with the doctor.

“It was better that we didn’t take a risk.”

Elsewhere on the injury front, Benitez will almost have a clean bill of health heading down to the south coast, should both former Bournemouth man Ritchie and summer signing Atsu be declared fit to travel.

The only two players who remain sidelined are left-backs Paul Dummett and Massadio Haidara.

While the latter is a more long-term injury, Dummett, who is Benitez’s preferred option on the left-hand side, could return in the next month.