Aleksandar Mitrovic is ready to lead the line against Tottenham Hotspur – after putting in the hard yards in pre-season.
The Newcastle United striker is on standby to face Mauricio Pochettino’s side at St James’s Park in Sunday’s Premier League opener.
Rafa Benitez revealed after Sunday’s 2-0 win over Hellas Verona that Dwight Gayle, troubled by hamstring problems last season, had “not been comfortable” in training last week.
Mitrovic scored three goals for the Mags in pre-season. And the 22-year-old – who could yet leave Newcastle before the transfer window closes – feels prepared for the challenges ahead.
Asked about his pre-season campaign, Mitrovic said: “I try to do my best every game and to prepare my body for a long, long season in the Premier League.
“It’s tough, but pre-season has to be hard and tough. This one is hard and tough. I try to do the best every training (session) and every game and to prepare myself.”
Mitrovic, signed from Anderlecht two years ago, is a cult figure for many Magpie fans. And the Serbia international – who found opportunities hard to come by in the Championship last season because of the form of Gayle – hopes to repay fans for their backing.
“From the beginning we had a good relationship,” said Mitrovic.
“Of course, they want to see the goals. I hope this season to score more than in the other season and make them happy.”
Mitrovic last week insisted he was “focused” on his Newcastle career despite continued speculation over his future.
“I’m focused,” said Mitrovic. “We’ll see what happens, but, at the moment, I’m focused to try to do the best I can every training session and every game and to do the best with every chance I get.”
Meanwhile, Tottenham have suffered a blow ahead of Sunday’s game at St James’s Park.
Right-back Kieran Trippier is set to miss the game with an ankle injury.