Norwich City v Newcastle: Latecomer Mbemba gets green light for Magpies

Newcastle defender Chancel Mbemba
Newcastle defender Chancel Mbemba
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Newcastle United’s Chancel Mbemba had trouble getting out of Africa – but he’s set to make the starting XI at Carrow Road.

The defender had problems returning from DR Congo’s African Cup of Nations against Angola in Luanda this week.

Mbemba was only able to train yesterday ahead of this afternoon’s hugely-important Premier League game against relegation rivals Norwich City.

And the 21-year-old was given a late assessment by manager Rafa Benitez.

“He had problems with his flights and connections, because from the airport he flew out of, he couldn’t go here and had to go there,” said Benitez.

“Always when you have an international break, you think it will be positive because you can work with your players and you have more time.

“But you lose seven or eight players and sometimes the situation is you lose them for a while.

“You cannot change these things.

“It has been there for years at all the clubs I have been coaching or training at.

“What you have to do is make sure he is fine.

“He’s coming back late, but I will be in contact with him (to) see how he feels .”

Meanwhile, Benitez doesn’t have a magic number for second-bottom Newcastle.

Unlike Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce – who believes 38 points will keep his club in the league – Benitez is refusing to set a points target.

“I’m not doing any numbers now,” said Benitez. “The next game is the most important. We have to try to get three points. We must concentrate on them one at a time.”