Rafa Benitez is facing many challenges ahead of the new season and the last thing he needs is injury problems on top of dealing with the transfer market.

Jamaal Lascelles played the opening 45 minutes of the first friendly of the season at Hearts but then missed the following game at Preston.

Rafa Benitez afterwards said it was just a ‘knock’ but when Newcastle moved on to Bradford, last season’s NUFC captain was missing once again.

Saturday saw a 2-1 defeat at Mainz and once again Lascelles was missing.

After the match the United boss was asked about the centre-back’s injury situation and confirmed it wasn’t serious but that Jamaal Lascelles hasn’t been able to take part in training.

The second half of last season saw the defender’s form tail off badly but after promotion it was revealed he’d been playing with a groin problem and an operation followed. Needless to say, let’s hope the knock isn’t related to last season’s injury with the potential of it recurring.

The match at Wolfsburg is only three days away now and I can’t see Lascelles being considered for that, so Verona in seven days time looks to be the only potential chance for him to get some more game time. Unless he is ready to play a significant part in that game, it would be difficult to see him starting against Tottenham in two weeks time.

Rafa could end up missing one half of last season’s best United defence.

As well as Lascelles, DeAndre Yedlin is now being assessed. Rafa Benitez admitting after the Mainz defeat that it was a hamstring problem that forced the right-back off after only 27 minutes.

The manager says that you never know with hamstring injuries how serious, or not, they are, but you would have to think at the very least Yedlin will sit out these final two friendlies and won’t be available to face his old club Spurs.

Which then gives us the interesting possibility of seeing Javier Manquillo a lot earlier than expected.

He was universally considered to have been brought in as a squad player, at least in the short-term, but he came on for Yedlin yesterday and played the final 63 minutes.

If Yedlin does indeed miss out on starting the season, Rafa Benitez would appear to then have a choice of throwing Manquillo in, or giving Jesus Gamez a surprise chance after he was all but totally sidelined last season through injury and the manager’s selection choices.

It was difficult to say for sure who would be starting the season and now the guesswork has got just that little bit harder.

Rafa Benitez talking to NUFC TV:

‘Can you tell us why DeAndre Yedlin came off in the first half?’

“A little bit stiff in his hamstring, we will have to assess now.

“How serious it is? You never know in these cases, it doesn’t seem too serious but we have to wait.”

‘Jamaal Lascelles has missed the last couple of friendlies, how is he?’

“I think next week he will be training with the group, he will be ok.”

The full first team and reserve/Under 23 pre-season schedules are as follows so far –

The first team friendlies:

Friday 14 July – Hearts 1 Newcastle 2

Saturday 22 July – Preston 1 Newcastle 1

Wednesday 26 July – Bradford 0 Newcastle 4

Saturday 29 July – Mainz 2 Newcastle 1

Wednesday 2 August – Wolfsburg away 4pm local time (3pm UK time)

Sunday 6 August – Hellas Verona home 3pm

Under 23/Reserves pre-season friendlies:

Monday 17 July – Darlington 1 Newcastle 2

Saturday 22 July – Gateshead 0 Newcastle 3

Tuesday 25 July – Whitley Bay 0 Newcastle 0

Thursday 27 July – Celtic 1 Newcastle 2

Saturday 29 July – AZ Alkmaar 1 Newcastle 4