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’.’