'He’s not comfortable' - Manager admits to striker fitness worry ahead of Tottenham visit to Newcastle
By Danny Wright
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has admitted that he is sweating over the fitness of striker Dwight Gayle ahead of his side’s Premier League opener against Tottenham on Sunday.
Spurs could be visiting St. James’ Park in the knowledge that their opponents may be without their top goal scorer from last season in the tie.
Gayle, 26, sat out of Sunday’s 2-0 friendly victory over Hellas Verona after Benitez said that he was “not comfortable” ahead of the game.
The former Crystal Palace forward saw his debut season with the Magpies plagued with hamstring troubles, but he still managed to find the net 23 times in 34 Championship appearances.
As it stands, goal-shy Aleksandar Mitrovic would be the only option to fill the void up front, but Benitez has made it clear that he is hoping Gayle will return to fitness for Spurs’ visit.
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“He’s fine,” said the Magpies boss, as quoted by the Shields Gazette. “Dwight is training with the fitness coach, so hopefully he can carry on training this week.
“If everything is fine, I think he will be OK for Sunday.
Although hamstring injuries troubled Gayle last season, Benitez also added that it is not a recurrence of the problem that has kept him sidelined for 12 competitive matches in 2017.
“It’s not his hamstring – it’s more the feeling that he has. “He’s not comfortable, and we don’t want to take any risks,” the former Real Madrid and Liverpool boss added.
Tottenham also have an injury worry of their own heading into Sunday’s Premier League opener.
Kieran Trippier suffered an injury blow in Saturday’s friendly clash with Juventus, meaning that Spurs’ only natural right-back who is fully fit is youngster Kyle Walker-Peters.
Newcastle’s have won their two last fixtures against Tottenham, with their most recent being a 5-1 thrashing of Mauricio Pochettino’s men on the final day of the 2015/16 season ahead of the Tynesiders’ relegation.
In other Newcastle news, Former striker Mick Quinn has slammed Toon owner Mike Ashley for the club’s poor transfer window.