Rafa Benitez admits Jonjo Shelvey faces a tough task to regain his starting spot for Newcastle

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‘It is very easy to explain why he is not playing’: Rafa Benitez admits Jonjo Shelvey faces a tough task to regain his starting spot for Newcastle

  • Jonjo Shelvey has slipped to fifth-choice midfielder at Newcastle after an injury 
  • In his absence, Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff have impressed for Magpies 
  • Shelvey scored for Newcastle Under-23s at Fulham as he bids for match fitness 

Craig Hope for MailOnline

Rafa Benitez says Jonjo Shelvey is now his fifth-choice midfielder at Newcastle.

The 27-year-old is available for selection following a thigh injury but cannot make the bench and has watched the last two matches from the stands.

Shelvey played for the Under-23s at Fulham on Friday in a bid to gain match fitness and will not be in the squad for Saturday’s trip to West Ham.

Jonjo Shelvey is now fifth-choice midfielder at Newcastle after suffering a thigh injury

Jonjo Shelvey is now fifth-choice midfielder at Newcastle after suffering a thigh injury

Jonjo Shelvey is now fifth-choice midfielder at Newcastle after suffering a thigh injury

Benitez will start with Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden at the London Stadium, while Mo Diame and Ki Sung-yueng will compete for a place among the substitutes.

And the Magpies boss has warned Shelvey he is at the bottom of the pecking order right now.

‘It is very easy to explain why he is not playing,’ said Benitez. ‘You have Longstaff and Hayden doing well. Still you have Ki and Diame – they were ahead of him – and they are not in the team, so you have five midfielders now for two positions.

‘We don’t have the the space – physically, you cannot put more than 18 players in the squad. Someone has to stay out and that is my problem to decide.’

Benitez added: ‘Many people say, “Yeah, but Jonjo could be…”. Yes, “could be”, but we are doing well.

‘The Burnley game (2-0 win on Tuesday) was an example. We put Diame on the bench because we though that it could be physical and, in the end, he was on the pitch.

‘Ki has the quality, Diame has the physicality so, for Jonjo to go ahead of him, he has to do really well and be the right one (for that match).’

Shelvey’s situation has led to doubt over his future. When asked if he would remain at the club beyond this season, Benitez said: ‘I think so. He is under contract.’

However, Shelvey is unlikely to hang around should he feel in the shadows come the summer and there would be no shortage of suitors, Saturday’s opponents West Ham chief among them.

In Shelvey's enforced absence, youngster Sean Longstaff has impressed for the Magpies

In Shelvey's enforced absence, youngster Sean Longstaff has impressed for the Magpies

In Shelvey’s enforced absence, youngster Sean Longstaff has impressed for the Magpies

Despite his lack of action, boss Rafa Benitez fully expected Jonjo Shelvey to stay at Newcastle

Despite his lack of action, boss Rafa Benitez fully expected Jonjo Shelvey to stay at Newcastle

Despite his lack of action, boss Rafa Benitez fully expected Jonjo Shelvey to stay at Newcastle

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