Benitez admits major concern over Newcastle star

Ross Gibson

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez is awaiting the results of a scan on key man Jonjo Shelvey’s knee and hoping his injury does not derail the club’s fight against Premier League relegation.

The 26-year-old, who has been nursing a groin problem in recent weeks, will miss Saturday’s trip to former club Liverpool after being hurt when he collided with his own keeper, Martin Dubravka, during last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Bournemouth.

Benitez is hopeful that the damage is not too serious, but he is keeping his fingers crossed as he awaits the verdict from medical staff.

The Spaniard said: “Jonjo has a knock to his knee and is not available. We have to check on how he is doing and we are waiting for the results of the scan.

“At the moment, we don’t know how serious. Obviously he wants to train, he wants to play, but the doctors say we have to check exactly what he has and then after, decide.”

Shelvey has been hugely influential in recent weeks as Newcastle have put together a four-game unbeaten run – indeed, Manchester City’s double over them represents their only reverses in their last 10 – to boost their survival hopes.

Any extended absence could prove hugely damaging, although Benitez is confident that the likes of Mohamed Diame, Mikel Merino and Isaac Hayden can plug the gap.

The trip to Anfield takes the manager back to a club where he spent six hugely successfully years, capped by a Champions League triumph in 2005, and where he is still regarded fondly by the locals.

However, the Magpies have not tasted league victory on the red half of Merseyside since 1994 and that is a situation he is desperate to address against Jurgen Klopp’s high-flyers.

Benitez said: “The main thing for me is to try to win. Always I say the same when I have these situations: all the best after this game.

“The relationship, the connection is so obvious, for us we just have to make sure we do our best in this game and then afterwards, wish them all the best.

“You have to have this confidence coming from the game against Manchester United, coming from the first half against Bournemouth. There are a lot of positives that we have seen and we have to make sure we replicate this at Anfield.”

Midfielder Matt Ritchie and striker Dwight Gayle are fit, but loan signing Islam Slimani remains on the sidelines.