When Rafa Benitez led Newcastle United to a surprise tenth-placed finish in the Premier League last season, many expected the Magpies to kick on and become an established top-flight force once again.
A lack of backing from the upper echelons has however plunged the club back into the relegation mire, and Benitez has some significant work to do if he wants to keep them in the division this season.
One of the features of Newcastle’s performances last season was their solid defence, with the Magpies conceding just 47 goals in their 38 games.
While their back line has not been as consistent so far this season, conceding just 14 goals in 11 games is still a very decent record for a side that have spent much of the season in the relegation zone.
You feel that if Newcastle are to survive this season then their defence will once again be key, with Benitez’s side struggling for goals at the other end of the pitch.
And they are now set for a massive boost in that area, with Florian Lejeune looking ready to return from injury next month to swell their ranks in defence, as reported by the Daily Mail.
It is said that Lejeune is set to return from his ACL injury up to four months ahead of schedule after Benitez recommended Italian surgeon Pier Paolo Mariani, who performed the required operation.
While Lejeune’s return date is not yet set, having him back in time for the Christmas period will be a huge boost for Benitez, and will give Newcastle all the tools they need to survive.
In Lejeune, Jamaal Lascelles, Federico Fernandez, Fabian Schar, and Ciaran Clark, Newcastle have a defensive unit capable of keeping a lot of clean sheets.
If they do that, then the Magpies merely need to nick a goal at the other end in a few games to secure the points they need to stay up.
Lejeune’s return could not be coming at a better time for Benitez, and this could be the boost which catapults Newcastle towards safety in the new year after a tough start to the season.