By Tom Blackburn

Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez has revealed it was an easy decision to leave Chancel Mbema out of last weekend’s starting line-up.

Mbemba, 22, remained an unused substitute, as the Toon giants began their Championship season with a disappointing 1-0 loss to Fulham at Craven Cottage.

The Congan centre-back missed the final pre-season preparations because of an ankle knock and Benitez opted to start new signing Grant Hanley in the heart of defence.

“Maybe he lost two or three training sessions, so he couldn’t train in the days before the game,” Benitez said when asked about Mbemba’s non-involvement, via the Shields Gazette.

“The other two were training all the time together. It was an easy decision not to play him.

“I could see that he was a little bit down because of that.

“I’m really impressed this week – he’s been really happy. I was happy with him and he’s happy.”

The 22-year-0ld arrived in Newcastle last summer from Anderlecht for £10million, and played all bar five of the clubs matches last season as they were relegated from the Premier League and knocked out of both domestic cups early.

He signed a five year contract when he arrived in the North-East, so there is still lots of time for him to have another go at the top-tier with the club.

As an international he has 24 caps, and he was a key part of the 2015 side that took third-place in the African Cup of Nations.

In other Newcastle team news, Moussa Sissoko is expected to start against Huddersfield with the Magpies to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.