By support

21st Jan, 2017 | 10:12am

Benitez delivers update on Newcastle 22-year-old, fans will be delighted

By Matt Farr

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has confirmed that Aleksandar Mitrovic could be back in contention to face rivals Derby on February 4.

The 22-year-old was stretchered off during the 1-1 draw with Birmingham at the start of the month, having suffered a deep cut to his knee.

However, both the injury and recovery have been better than first feared, and fans will be delighted at the prospect of having Mitrovic back in action in time for an important promotion clash with Derby.

The Serbia international has proven to be a reliable goalscorer, and his towering 6ft 2 figure will be imperative is Newcastle seek to match a physical and aerially strong Derby defence.

He returned to training on Friday, but is likely to miss the upcoming games with Rotherham, Oxford and QPR as he returns to full match fitness.

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Benitez told the Newcastle Chronicle: “I’m quite optimistic. He is doing well. He has no stitches now, he can bend the knee. I’m quite positive. You see him walking now, he is fine.

“For Mitro, next week is not too early for him. We will see. It’s not a massive injury.”

The Spaniard was not so sure, however, as to the potential return date of premier goalscorer Dwight Gayle. The 26-year-old has netted 20 goals from just 24 appearances in all competitions, before being sidelined with a hamstring injury.

The Magpies chief admitted that while Gayle was showing signs of improvement, he did not know how long he will remain out for.

Daryl Murphy has lead the line for Newcastle in absence, but due to a lack of other options, Benitez will be keen to have at least one of his crocked stars back in action at the earliest opportunity.

Newcastle take on rock-bottom Rotherham in the Championship on Saturday afternoon, where a win could see them return to the top of the table at the expense of Brighton – who won against Sheffield Wednesday on Friday.

In other Newcastle news, fans react on Twitter as Andros Townsend reportedly wants a return to St. James’ Park.

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