Rafa Benitez has told the Chronicle that Mo Diame and Ki Sung-Yueng are ‘quite close’ to returning to full fitness.

The former has been missing since limping off against Manchester United, while the latter was injured representing South Korea at the Asian Cup.

Ki in particular was performing well before departing, inspiring a strong run of form for the Magpies. As for Diame, he had been an ever-present in Benitez’s side before his injury.

(Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

In their absence, Isaac Hayden has been a constant feature in the side, while Sean Longstaff has kicked off his Premier League career in style.

With the pair doing so well, especially Longstaff, should Diame or Ki return to the side?

Longstaff cannot be dropped

Since his first Premier League start against Chelsea, Longstaff has been a revelation. Despite his inexperience, the midfielder has held his own against the league’s elite.

Composed in possession and looking to get the ball forward, Longstaff has ensured our midfield crisis wasn’t a crisis after all.

(Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

With that in mind, he simply can’t be dropped.

Hayden should make way

Unfortunately for Hayden, he didn’t get the move he wanted in January.

With no new central midfielder arriving, the former Arsenal man is having to stay in the North East until at least the summer. Sadly for him, his run in the team should come to an end.

Despite doing well in recent games, Hayden does not offer more than Diame or Ki can. But which of the two should take his place?

Diame or Ki?

Against Wolves, Benitez should go with Diame in the middle.

(Photo by James Baylis – AMA/Getty Images)

The 31-year-old can get about the pitch better than Ki can, which could be important at Molineux. We may not see a lot of the ball again, so the energy of Longstaff and Diame could be key in stopping Ruben Neves orchestrating proceedings.

Ki’s time will come again, but it’s Diame who should be recalled first.

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