COMMENT

It had been a long time coming, but Newcastle United fans have finally been able to see Islam Slimani turn out in the black and white stripes.

The Algerian striker was meant to be the man to fire the club to Premier League safety after joining on a season long loan from Leicester City, but injury has significantly limited his playing time.

After exactly two months since his arrival, the 29-year-old was finally able to feature and give the fans what they wanted, coming off the bench in Saturday’s crucial 1-0 win over Huddersfield, and even had a part to play in the goal, putting the Terriers goalkeeper under pressure with an attempted header, leading to Kenedy’s assist for Ayoze Perez’s match winning strike.

However, the excitement over Slimani’s return may well be short lived.

That is because it will be another two weeks until fans get to see him feature again, the striker ineligible for next weekend’s visit to his parent club Leicester.

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His enforced absence means that Dwight Gayle or Joselu, who missed the Huddersfield win through injury, will be chosen to lead the line – and they are both in the last chance saloon with Slimani coming back.

There is no chance the Algerian will be left out the squad for the final six games of the season, and with Benitez regularly using one striker to start and just one more on the bench, it leaves three pegs trying to fit into two holes.

Gayle has been chosen more frequently recently but only as a result of Joselu’s injury struggles, the Spaniard the first choice in the first half of the season, although neither have set the score sheets alight.

Last season’s top scorer once again leads the club’s charts but with a mere five goals, his centre forward counterpart trailing him on four.

The Leicester match is make-or-break for the pair, and one seems destined to be disappointed while the other may well have to settle for a place on the bench if and when Slimani hits full fitness.

In other Newcastle United news, the Magpies can avoid a massive double blow by getting pen to paper.

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