Steve Bruce must unleash Ciaran Clark against Burnley on Sunday after Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles was ruled out through injury.
The Toon boss has confirmed that Lascelles will miss his side’s trip to Turf Moor after sustaining a foot injury during last week’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur.
Newcastle had kept one clean sheet over their last seven top-flight fixtures with Lascelles starting every time, but they will visit relegation rivals Burnley with a gap to plug in Bruce’s backline.
“The disappointing thing is we’ve lost the captain Lascelles with a foot injury which, unfortunately, happened last week against Spurs, so that’s a blow to us,” Bruce said.
“With Fabian Schar being missing too, it leaves us a bit light there. It’s not looking so good at the moment, so he’ll have more scans today and over the weekend and he won’t play this weekend, that’s for sure.”
“Fernandez obviously hasn’t played for a long, long time, but he’s trained all week which is good news,” the Magpies head coach added.
Fernandez being available for Sunday’s trip to Burnley will be a huge boost for Newcastle with Lascelles ruled out, but Bruce should look to continue plotting the Argentine’s return carefully after almost three months out of action.
The Newcastle boss can opt to name Fernandez among his substitutes at Turf Moor as he should have Clark to call on beside Paul Dummett in the heart of the United backline, after electing to bench the Republic of Ireland international against Tottenham.
The Spurs clash was the first Premier League fixture Clark had missed since Newcastle’s 3-2 win at home to Southampton in February, but he had earned Bruce’s praise earlier in the year after signing a new two-year contract.
“I’m delighted Ciaran has signed a new deal. First and foremost, he is a very talented defender, and he gives us great balance as a naturally left-footed centre-half,” Bruce said, via quotes shared by TEAMtalk. “He has also become a very consistent performer and I’m pleased to see his hard work and commitment rewarded.”
That hard work and commitment has also seen Clark offer 0.5 more tackles per Premier League game than Lascelles this season, along with 0.9 more interceptions and one more aerial duel won, per WhoScored.
With Burnley winning a division-high 23 aerial duels per game as a team this season, having Clark back in the fold could prove to be crucial for Newcastle this weekend.