By Russell Edge

14th Oct, 2017 | 8:14pm

Benitez reveals early team news ahead of Southampton clash - long term absentee 'very close'

By Russell Edge

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez has revealed that both Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie are in contention for Sunday’s clash against Southampton after their injury worries.

Both the Scottish and the Ghanaian international had to pull out of their countries’ World Cup qualifying matches, with a thigh and a knee issue respectively.

However Benitez has revealed that the duo have travelled down with the rest of the side to take on the Saints, as they look to return to winning ways following the international break.

He revealed that the only injury worries the Magpies do have is with left back duo Paul Dummett and Massadio Haidara, who have both been out for the club’s recent matches.

Benitez told the Chronicle: “Atsu and Ritchie had little problems but they’re fine.

Subscribe to Football Insider TV now

“We have just Haidara and Dummett out at the moment.”

However the Spanish manager could welcome back the French defender sooner rather than later, as he stated that the 24-year-old is edging ever closer to full fitness.

“I have been watching Massadio in training,” said Benitez to the Chronicle.

“He has been kicking the ball again and putting in crosses, so he is very close now. Paul will still need some time.”

Haidara, a former France under-21 international, has had a nightmare of an injury history with Newcastle, with a persistent knee injury keeping him out of action for nearly two years.

He made just one league appearance last season, on the final day of the club’s Championship winning campaign, and three appearances in total.

Since joining from French side AS Nancy, he has just 52 appearances under his belt for the Magpies, and will see his contract expire next summer.

In other Newcastle United news, there was a surprise reveal in this official announcement about the club’s latest deal.

We’ve launched a << BREAKING NEWS FEED>> exclusively for your club. ‘Like Us’ on Facebook by clicking here if you want 24/7 updates on all Newcastle United breaking news