Mikel Merino hasn’t started a Newcastle game for almost six weeks now.

The Spaniard last was named in Newcastle’s starting eleven in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool.

Even though he then went away and played for the Spanish Under 21 team, on his return he was surprisingly dropped to the bench for the next two matches.

Coming on as a substitute against Southampton and Crystal Palace, it was hoped the midfielder was simply getting a bit of a breather before returning to the team.

However, when then left out altogether from the squad to face Burnley, it was revealed that Mikel Merino had a back injury. Rafa Benitez saying the problem had actually first arisen during that Liverpool match – but Newcastle obviously trying to manage the injury and keep the player involved in games at the same time as an impact sub.

Missing though from the squad on Saturday against Bournemouth as well, Rafa has spoken of the player being out for a ‘couple of weeks’.

The news/claims from Spain on Thursday morning are less encouraging though.

Diario AS are reporting that Mikel Merino is set to miss the next six to eight weeks, which would effectively rule him out until the New Year.

With the player a key star for the Spanish Under 21s and having been pulled out of the squad, it is possible that news could have been picked up from that end after Newcastle told them of the reasons for the midfielder having to miss.

Hopefully though this is a very worst case scenario, if the reports have any substance, and back injuries are the type to be very hard to predict. Rather than a break which is usually relatively easy to predict a comeback from, much will simply depend on how Merino feels himself as he recovers.

What we do know for sure is that Mikel Merino started and played a key part in the wins over West Ham, Swansea & Stoke, and the only game Newcastle have won without him was when Merino came off the bench and scored the winner against Palace.

So Rafa will definitely not take any risks by throwing him in too soon.

Sport Witness reporting:

‘Diario AS, in their Thursday edition, claim Merino is set to be missing at Newcastle United for ‘between six and eight weeks’ due to a back injury. To be specific, AS state Merino is having ‘some problems with a vertebrae’.’

  • goalseeker

    Well, that is not the best Christmas present for player, club or fans. All we can say is get well soon Mikel, we all miss you. however, do not rush back. Leaving it a couple of weeks extra is better than coming back too soon and missing the rest of the season. Rafa and the back room staff are the best judges even if we are screaming for the way you play, Rafa, will always be your best guide. As a chronic back sufferer I know what you are going through.

    Wishing Rafa and the rest of the squad my best wishes

  • Steve Pearce

    Aye – that old pre-Christmas injury jinx is raising its ugly head again!

  • hetonmag

    Knowing how well Rafa keeps the media informed I would take this with a pinch of salt.

  • Alan Pardew

    As a group, we have to make sure we protect the players and give them the best possible chance to be at their maximum on a Saturday. We’re pushing the players, and we’re going to get injuries.

  • Wor Lass

    The six to eight week comment could include time he`s already missed. Rafa didn`t seem so pessimistic in his comments after the dinner the other night.

  • Peaco

    On the bright side at least he got enough games under his belt to allow us to sign him permanently. Let’s hope it’s not too serious

    • Andy Mac

      Er we’ve signed him permanently !

      • Peaco

        Er that was the point I was making.

        • Andy Mac

          Nice edit !

  • Mxpx

    Hope he makes a speedy recovery for me the best player at the club right now

  • Andy Mac

    “Newcastle haven’t won without Mikel Merino on the pitch”

    So the arguments about who to start up front, in central midfield and at the back are all irrelevant. Looks like we’ll have to wait until January to get another win. Sad to say that one player makes such a difference but without him we’re woeful.

  • At least he provd much-praised Shelvey is nothing more than a good Chmpionship midfielder. He has really struggled to fill Merino’s shoes. Unfortunatelly, our midfield options are close to none. Don’t think Rafa will give Barlaser, let lone Colback a shot instead of Hayden and Mo. I would love if he tried Lejeune as a defensive midfielder. He actually did much better than Shelvey in running with the ball from our own field over the halfway line.