Rafa Benitez says it was an “easy decision” to leave Chancel Mbemba out of his Newcastle United side at Craven Cottage.
Mbemba was an unused substitute in last week’s season-opening 1-0 defeat to Fulham.
I’m really impressed this week – he’s been really happyRafa Benitez
The defender had missed the previous weekend’s final pre-season friendly because of an ankle problem.
And United manager Benitez felt he wasn’t ready to play and fielded Grant Hanley alongside captain Jamaal Lascelles in the centre of his defence.
However, the 22-year-old is firmly in Benitez’s thoughts for this afternoon’s Championship home game against Huddersfield Town.
Asked about Mbemba’s non-involvement agatinst Fulham, Benitez said: “Maybe he lost two or three training sessions, so he couldn’t train in the days before the game.
“The other two were training all the time together. It was an easy decision not to play him.”
The decision left Mbemba “down”, though he has responded positively on the training field this week.
“I could see that he was a little bit down because of that,” said Benitez.
“I’m really impressed this week – he’s been really happy. I was happy with him and he’s happy.
“Always a foreign player needs more time to settle, but this week was a step forward for him.”
Meanwhile, Benitez will again be without injured forward Siem de Jong this weekend.
De Jong, linked with a move to PSV Eindhoven, has a hamstring probblem.