Rafa Benitez views the two-week international break as positive for his Newcastle United side, as they look to get Dwight Gayle back to full fitness, reports the Chronicle Live.
Newcastle currently hold a slender lead over Brighton and Hove Albion at the top of the Sky Bet Championship table, as they aim to secure both promotion and the league title.
Gayle, who is the Magpies’ leading goalscorer this season, has struggled with a hamstring injury since January, missing a number of crucial fixtures, as Newcastle have continued their challenge for a Premier League return.
The 26-year old has started just twice in Newcastle’s last 14 fixtures across all competitions, scoring one goal.
With just under two weeks until Newcastle face Wigan Athletic, Benitez is hopeful Gayle’s fitness will improve, he said: “We have seen how important he is to us right through the season.
“It is in the international break now and that gives us an opportunity to improve the fitness of some players.
“I can only see that as a positive.”
Gayle featured as a second-half substitute in Saturday’s goalless draw with Birmingham City, as Benitez’s side moved a point clear of Brighton at the top of the table, after Chris Hughton’s side suffered a 2-0 defeat to Leeds United.
With just eight fixtures of the Championship season remaining, Newcastle look almost certain for automatic promotion, currently holding a seven-point lead over third-placed Huddersfield Town.
Newcastle fans… How important do you expect Gayle to be between now and the end of the season? Let us know in the comments!