NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has revealed that Newcastle United are likely to see key players return from injury, which will boost the team’s chances for this weekend’s Premier League clash with Aston Villa.
The managerless Villains will arrive at St James’ Park on Saturday looking to kick-start a so-far underachieving season, while the Magpies go in search of their fifth win in six games, a run which has seen them climb into the Champions League spots in the top flight.
That top-four form has largely been done without some of Newcastle’s most exciting attacking talent. However, head coach Howe has revealed that Elliot Anderson will return and there is a possibility that so will Allan Saint-Maximin.
“Yeah there’s a chance,” Howe said when asked about the potential return of Frenchman Saint-Maximin.
“We’re going to see how training goes, but he’s made really good progress. I’m very pleased with how he’s attacked his rehab and the work he’s put in. Yeah, there’s an opportunity to hopefully get Maxi fit and available.”
A player who has been defined by his inconsistency as much as his brilliance, Howe believes Saint-Maximin, despite his injury struggles this campaign, is in a really “good place” at the moment.
“Currently, Maxi’s really good, he’s in a very good place. I think the recent setback he had on his hamstring was a huge blow to him. But, I think, it almost reset him mentally to go ‘right, I’ve got to really look after myself and get my recovery right,’” he said.
“So I think I’ve seen, this time, a real, huge steely determination in him to get back fit and in the best physical condition possible.
“He’s been having really intense treatment — three sessions a day. Two at the training ground, one at night at home. So a real dedication to his profession and to try and get himself (fit) as quickly as possible for what is an intense period of games before the break. I can’t speak highly enough of how he’s attacked this stage of his rehab.”
Howe has also given an update on Anderson, after the young Geordie missed out on a spot on the bench last weekend at Tottenham Hotspur.
Howe said: “He’s OK. He had a minor niggle, nothing serious. He’s back in the squad this weekend.”
Newcastle’s form player this season, in somewhat surprising circumstances, has been Miguel Almiron.
The Paraguayan is United’s top scorer with six goals in the top flight, his best-ever tally since arriving from Atlanta United under Rafa Benitez.
Talk this week has been of a new deal for the player, but Howe says that kind of speculation is, at this stage, premature.
“No, I don’t know where that story has come from,” he said.
“I’ve said every week how much I love and respect Miggy but I don’t think any conversations have started between the club or his representatives. At the moment, we’re in a busy spell of games.
“All conversations on contract and futures will take place at a later date.”
An interesting subplot to this weekend’s clash is the appointment of Unai Emery as the new manager at Villa Park. The Spaniard replaced sacked England legend Steven Gerrard, but will not take a place in the dugout this weekend.
Emery was United’s first choice to replace Steve Bruce in November last year but turned down the approach made by the club board.
The job then went to Howe, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Speaking of the arrival of serial trophy winner Emery back in English football, Howe said: “There’s all sorts of things that happen, coincidences. I’ve said many times, Unai is a fantastic manager with an unbelievable record in various countries, in Europe especially. It’s a brilliant appointment by Aston Villa.
“We want the best coaches and players in the Premier League. We want the product to be the best it can be and from my side, it helps me learn and grow and become better.
“Unai is a very good manager and he will add to the quality in the league. It’s a brilliant thing for the Premier League, but maybe not so great for us because the competition gets higher. But that’s where we want to be and we have to improve to continue to succeed.”