Speaking in his pre-match press conference (via Chronicle Live), Eddie Howe revealed that, after affording Alexander Isak his first minutes of competitive football since September in the 2-0 Carabao Cup victory over Leicester City on Tuesday, the 23-year-old centre-forward looks to be available for selection once again for the visit of the Cottagers on Saturday.
Regarding the current condition of the Sweden international, Howe said: “He’s responded very well physically – there’ve been no ill effects. He’s trained well this week off the back of that cameo [against Leicester]. I think we have to be very careful with him, just with the length of time he’d been out and the type of injury that he had.
“He’s done all the work, he’s looked in good condition, he’s looked confident and he’s very keen to be involved. But I think we need him for the long term, and it’s great to have a very strong choice in the centre forward unit at the moment.”
Considering just how impressive Isak had looked for Newcastle prior to his injury back in September, the fact that the £63m club-record summer signing is now back in contention for a starting spot in the league will undoubtedly come as a huge boost to Howe and his side – not only against Fulham but also in the race to secure Champions League football at St. James’ Park.
Indeed, over his three Premier League appearances in the current campaign, the £44.5m-rated talent has very much hit the ground running in England, having already hit the back of the net twice, in addition to having taken an average of 2.7 shots – 2.0 of which have hit the target – made one key pass and completed 0.7 dribbles per game.
These returns have seen the £120k-per-week sensation average an extremely impressive Sofascore match rating of 6.97, currently ranking him as Howe’s best-performing centre-forward and eighth-best player overall in the top flight of English football.
As such, it is clear for all to see that the return of Isak is most certainly fantastic news for the 45-year-old manager and his side, as the availability of the Swede – even if he starts the meeting with Fulham on the bench – undoubtedly increases the Magpies’ chances of securing a result against the Cottagers – not to mention the club’s hopes of securing a top-four finish this term.