Newcastle United hope to have defender Jamaal Lascelles back available to face Arsenal in the FA Cup, leaving Steve Bruce with a mammoth task against Leicester City on Sunday.
The Toon have been without Lascelles for their past six Premier League fixtures, after the 27-year-old returned a positive test for coronavirus alongside Allan Saint-Maximin following an outbreak at the club after the November international break.
Lascelles has suffered badly from the virus but was welcomed back to training late last month for light solo sessions away from the squad, but is finally starting to show signs of progress and stepped up his fitness regime early this week, according to The Northern Echo.
Newcastle staff had to closely monitor Lascelles’ rehabilitation despite the Magpies captain returning a string of negative tests, and will continue to take a cautious approach given the length of time the Derby-born defender has now been sidelined for.
Lascelles will not be involved in Sunday’s matchday squad to face Leicester at St. James’ Park, with the preference being to wait a further week as there is a chance he can feature at the Emirates during Newcastle’s FA Cup third round meeting with Arsenal.
Ciaran Clark has filled in for Lascelles over the Christmas period, while Bruce has been able to welcome Fabian Schar and Federico Fernandez back into the fold after also losing the pair due to the Covid outbreak.
But news of Lascelles facing another week out of action will be a huge blow for Bruce ahead of facing the Foxes on Sunday, having already expressed concern on over-exerting Schar and Fernandez having been forced to withdraw the Argentine against Fulham through chronic fatigue.
Fernandez was taken off at half-time during last month’s 1-1 draw at home to the Cottagers before returning to play the full 90 minutes against Manchester City and Liverpool alongside Schar, who is yet to miss a second since his comeback at the Etihad.
It is likely that their run in the side will now have to continue at home to Leicester City on Sunday, even if Bruce would prefer to afford at least one of his centre-halves a welcome break to start the New Year.