By Russell Edge

9th Nov, 2017 | 12:30pm

'Very difficult' - Benitez delivers major Newcastle blow ahead of Manchester United clash

By Russell Edge

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez has delivered the major blow that both Mikel Merino and Jamaal Lascelles look set to miss the club’s crunch clash with Manchester United.

The Magpies are set to travel down to Old Trafford to take on Jose Mourinho’s side after the international break but it appears as though they will do so without their defensive and midfield stars after the Spanish manager provided an update on their respective injury setbacks.

Merino has been ruled out of the club’s last two games with a back injury, while Lascelles was forced to be substituted after suffering a knock during the 1-0 defeat at home to Bournemouth last weekend.

Benitez was certain that the midfield maestro would be out of action for the coming matches, while the club captain’s situation is less clear cut.

He told the Shields Gazette: “He’s (Lascelles) been working with the physios and getting a little bit better, but it’s slow.

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“We have to wait a couple of days, and then without inflammation we’ll see how it is.

“Merino’s getting better too. Next week, it’ll be more clear how long he’s out for, but a couple of weeks at least for Merino, and we will see with Jamaal.

“It’s very difficult for both of them for Man United.

“If it was fine now, maybe you have one week of training. But if not – even if he is fit – it will be two weeks without training, and you may not be physically ready for a game like that.”

The news is a major blow to the Magpies’ chances, with the pair having been two of Newcastle’s best performers this season.

Prior to his injury Merino had appeared in every one of the club’s league matches, impressing enough for them to turn his initial one year loan deal from Borussia Dortmund into a permanent move, the 21-year-old signing a five-year contract.

Lascelles meanwhile has appeared in all of the club’s top flight fixtures this season, despite having started the campaign on the bench, and has two goals to his name so far.

In other Newcastle United news, a trio of Spanish sides are lining up a move for this star for the Magpies.

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