Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez has told Jonjo Shelvey to be ready to make an impact as the midfielder awaits his chance to get back into the team.
Shelvey will hope for a first start since the opening day of the season when former club Liverpool arrive at St James’ Park on Sunday, having been limited to two appearances as a substitute since his return from suspension.
Benitez, who signed Shelvey during his time at Anfield only to leave the club days later, knows exactly what the 25-year-old has to offer but was giving opposite number Jurgen Klopp no clues about his prospects of a return this weekend.
He said: “You always try to find the balance between your attack and your defence, and we will try to do that.
“Obviously we know that Jonjo is a great player, so if he is doing well in a game, it means that the team will be playing well.
“He will have a chance, for sure, to impress. I don’t know if it will be from the beginning in this game or maybe another one – I don’t want to give any clue to Jurgen – but he’s an important player for us.”
It will be an emotional day for Benitez as he goes into battle with the club at which he spent four hugely successful years, winning the Champions League, the European Super Cup, the FA Cup and the Community Shield.
However, while only too aware of the threat the Merseyside club pose to his hopes of bouncing back from last weekend’s defeat at Brighton, he is adamant victory will be the only thing on his mind.
The Spaniard said: “We try always to win. I am not thinking about anything else other than trying to get three points.
“After it depends how the game goes – maybe one point is good enough – but at the beginning, just try to get three points.”
The Reds have invested heavily in recent seasons in a bid to replicate the success they had under Benitez but their former manager admits the task is becoming more difficult all the time.
He said: “The problem now is to sustain the success, to be successful and to sustain the success. With the top sides you have in England and the money that everyone is spending, it’s not easy.
“They have a good manager, fantastic support from the fans, so they have everything to do well. But they have to compete against the top sides and that’s not easy.”