By Dominic Toner

Rafa Benitez believes that Yoan Gouffran’s performances will continue to improve.

The Newcastle manager has praised the hard work in training of the attacker midfielder ahead of the club’s Championship clash with Aston Villa on Saturday.

The Frenchman, 30, has scored two goals and added two assists in seven matches in all competitions this year and is beginning to deliver in recent matches.

He made just nine senior appearances throughout the whole of the 2015/16 season as Newcastle were relegated to the Championship, but has been given more of an opportunity this year.

Benitez has said that players who work hard in training will see the benefits later down the line and has said that Gouffran will only keep devleoping, as quoted by the club’s official Twitter account.

“(Yoan) was training hard, and when you have that it’s just a question of time before they start playing well and scoring goals,” he said.

Gouffran will hope to be included for the match against Villa, which see’s two of the relegated teams from last season meet in a huge fixture.

Newcastle are attempting to seal an automatic return to the top-flight and are currently third in the table, with 15 points from eight games.

Gouffran faces a lot of competition for a starting position in the attacking role.

Team-mates Ayoze Perez, Christian Atsu, Matt Ritchie, Rolando Aarons and Mohamed Diame are all in contention for a starting role.

Gouffran’s most prolific spell of goal scoring was during his stay at French side Bordeaux, scoring 40 goals in 180 club appearances.

Dwight Gayle is the first-choice striker to lead the line and Gouffran as been dangerous playing behind the central striker, or as a winger.

In other Newcastle team news, their senior player has stepped up his road to recovery with a long-awaited appearance.