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Newcastle: Eddie Howe dealt Matt Ritchie blow

Newcastle United have been dealt another injury setback ahead of their Premier League meeting with Fulham on Saturday afternoon.

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That’s according to Craig Hope, with the journalist revealing in a recent report for the Daily Mail that Matt Ritchie looks unlikely to be available for selection for the trip to Craven Cottage this weekend.

It’s stated the 33-year-old picked up a calf injury during training last week – although it is hoped the midfielder’s layoff will be minimal.

Problems mounting for Howe

Injuries are now starting to stack up for Howe with Ritchie’s setback coming following the news that Alexander Isak, Chris Wood and Jonjo Shelvey all look set to sit out the Fulham fixture due to their own respective knocks, while Elliot Anderson and Allan Saint-Maximin are also doubts for the trip to west London.

While it is true that, following Matt Targett’s loan move to St. James’ Park back in January – a deal that the club made a permanent switch this summer – Ritchie has seen his game time become much more limited for the Magpies, the midfielder’s absence this weekend will nevertheless come as a blow to Howe.

Indeed, the former Scotland international has been a mainstay in Newcastle’s 20-man matchday squads so far this season, being an unused substitute in all but one of the club’s seven Premier League fixtures in 2022/23 – playing one minute of the 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers back in August.

Despite this, the £1.63m-rated talent has still proven this term that he is a reliable option to be called upon when required, something that will be of huge importance considering the hectic fixture schedule before the World Cup in Qatar.

He demonstrated how valuable a rotation option he can be when playing the full 90 minutes of Newcastle’s 2-1 Carabao Cup victory over Tranmere Rovers last month – with the 33-year-old earning an impressive SofaScore match rating of 7.0 for his efforts on the night.

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Furthermore, the 16-cap international’s positional versatility also makes him an incredibly useful part of Howe’s first-team squad, with the £45k-per-week winger filling in at left-back for the vast majority of his 18 Premier League appearances last season.

As such, while Ritchie was never overly likely to be handed a start at Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon, it is clear to see that the midfielder’s absence from the bench will nevertheless come as a blow to Howe – particularly following the news that Isak, Wood and Shelvey will also be unavailable for selection against Fulham.