Newcastle United are set to be without top scorer Dwight Gayle for Friday night’s Sky Bet Championship clash with Leeds United.
Gayle limped out of a 2-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday with another hamstring problem, the latest in a string of setbacks suffered by him this season, and he could miss the rest of Newcastle’s Championship games.
The striker’s fitness concerns have not stopped him scoring 22 league goals, including both efforts in a 2-0 win over Leeds at Elland Road in November, and his absence at St James’ Park would be a boost for United.
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez was forced to replace him inside half-an-hour at Hillsborough and admitted after full-time that Gayle’s season could be over.
“It’s too early (to say). It could be but it’s too early,” Benitez said. “It’s another hamstring injury. We have to wait.”
Gayle’s form saw him shortlisted for the Championship’s player-of-the-year award alongside United’s Chris Wood.
The pair were beaten to the prize by Brighton’s Anthony Knockaert at the EFL’s award ceremony yesterday.
Despite their loss in Sheffield, Newcastle are close to securing automatic promotion at the first attempt following relegation from the Premier League last season.
But their bid to claim the title is under pressure after Brighton once again returned to the top of the standings last week.
Benitez has been hampered by the absence of centre-back Ciaran Clark, who will miss the clash with Leeds, and he is waiting to see if midfielder Jack Colback will be passed fit for Friday night.
“We must be sure that we have some players back, some fresh legs, and everybody ready again,” Benitez said.
Leeds are making their first league visit to St James Park since 2004 and looking to record their first win there since 2002.