There were suspicions of serious injury after Mikel Merino was left out of the side against Burnley, suspicions confirmed by Rafa Benítez on Friday. After suffering a lower back injury against Liverpool, Merino will be out for at least a few weeks. The Spanish midfielder will be held out of the match against Bournemouth on Saturday and will not join the national team, instead staying in Newcastle for rehabilitation and observations.
“(He took) a knock, I think against Liverpool, and he was feeling the pain the other day,” said Benítez. “We know he is not available so we have to concentrate on the other players, and I think it is fine. Last week, we had (Isaac) Hayden with a little problem, but for this game it is fine.”
Rafa also expressed confidence in positional depth without Merino. “We have four or five midfielders. We have (Mohamed) Diamé, (Henri) Saivet, Hayden and (Jonjo) Shelvey, and if we need anyone else, we can bring (Chancel) Mbemba in as a midfielder – he played there in the Africa Cup of Nations. I think we have enough bodies.”
Merino’s injury comes at an inopportune time as Newcastle look to establish momentum heading into an international break and look poised to do so while hosting a Bournemouth team that sits 19th in the Premier League. However, the international break will also afford Merino and the club some time to assess the severity of his injury.
Newcastle will face off against a Bournemouth side that has yet to hit its stride, with only six goals and two victories on the season to date. However, the strength of the southern squad lies in the central midfield, particularly in the form of Andrew Surman and Joshua King, so an adept replacement for Merino will be vital in securing a victory against the Cherries.