Rafa Benitez is confident that Moussa Sissoko can solve Newcastle United’s left-back problem.
Benitez is without injured pair Paul Dummett and Massadio Haidara for this afternoon’s game against Norwich City.
And midfielder Jack Colback, able to deputise at left-back, is suspended for the next two games after picking up his 10th booking of the season in the Tyne-Wear derby.
Benitez moved Sissoko into defence after Colback was withdrawn against Sunderland, and United’s manager is ready to field him there at Carrow Road after discussions this week.
Asked if Sissoko could play at left-back, Benitez said: “Yes. He did really well (against Sunderland).”
“I had a conversation with him (on Thursday) and said ‘listen, you are so important, even if you have to play as a striker or a keeper or maybe as a left full back’.
“So we were practising with him in this position. If you ask him what do you prefer, he would say he wants to play as a No 10 or a winger or whatever.
“But he knows he is a key player for us, and if he has to do it, he will do it.”
Sissoko has again struggled for form this season, especially away from home.
And the France international was booed off the field against Bournemouth last month after another fitful performance in midfield.
However, Sissoko has fared better in Benitez’s two games in charge, and the Spaniard has had talks with the 26-year-old, who has long been linked with moves away from St James’s Park.
Benitez said: “When I came and started talking to players individually, one of them was Moussa.
“He was very positive. In every game he has played on the left, and in the last one he was left back and was fantastic.
“He knows he has to do whatever he has to do. So I think the atmosphere has been very positive.
“They realise it is time to do the things better, because if not, we cannot win. They are giving everything.”
Benitez will again be without injured captain Fabricio Coloccini for the Norwich game – the centre-half could be fit for the April 9 game against Southampton at the St Mary’s Stadium – and he lost goalkeeper Rob Elliot and Haidara during the international break.
However, right-back Daryl Janmaat is fit, having recovered from a minor knee problem.
Asked about his defensive problems, Benitez said: “Sometimes you have to a position with two or three problems.
“But OK, we knew on coming here, we had a lot of injuries and we needed to manage the situation.
“There are less injuries now so it has improved a little, but we have been a bit unlucky with Elliot and with Haidara. Things that you cannot control.
“The others are fine. Janmaat is training, Papiss (Cisse) is training, (Cheick) Tiote is training so we have players coming back, but we have lost Colback to suspension.
“So in the left-back position, we have a problem, but we trained (on Friday) and will decide.
“We have two or three options, and will have to choose the best one if possible.”
Elliot, outstanding in the absence of injured No 1 Tim Krul, ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament playing for the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday night.
Former Nottingham Forest player Karl Darlow will make his second Premier League appearance for United at Carrow Road.
Reflecting on Elliot’s injury, Benitez said: “It’s a negative, but we cannot change this situation.
“When I received the news, I was thinking ‘I cannot believe the injuries that we have’.
“But afterwards I just realised that we still have a good keeper (Darlow). We have to support him and we have to prepare the team to do well.
“We have eight games to play so why say ‘oh, it’s impossible’. It is not impossible. It is possible if we do what we have to do and.
“And at the moment, we have the players doing what I am asking them. We are going in the right direction.”