Rafa Benitez’s hopes of welcoming back defender Florian Lejeune before the end of the season have been handed another boost.

The Spaniard is Rafa’s only long-term injury absentee but his recovery has been stepped up after successful surgery and a strong rehabilitation period.

With the Magpies struggling in the league currently, that news is a welcome boost to Benitez.

What’s the story, then?

CARLISLE, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 26: Florian Lejuene poses for photographs during a Portrait Session at Hadrians Wall on October 26, 2017, in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***Florian Lejeune;

The Daily Star report that there were fears Lejeune would miss the entirety of the season when he ruptured his cruciate ligaments during pre-season.

However, Benitez reportedly has immense faith in Italian specialist Paolo Mariani, who has accelerated the defender’s recovery.

He has been running on a treadmill in recent weeks, enthusing Benitez that he will be able to return long before the end of the season.

Boost for Rafa

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 15: Rafael Benitez the head coach / manager of Newcastle Unitedduring the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal FC at St. James Park on September 15, 2018 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

The first thing to note is that Benitez is looking for any piece of good news right now.

With the poor start to the season; undoubtedly exacerbated by a tough run of fixtures. And the ongoing fan protests about the Ashley regime, it’s in short supply at the moment.

With Rafa’s preferred counter-punching style of play, his defenders are especially important and Lejeune performed well last season.

Jamaal Lascelles is struggling with injury; Lejeune’s early return to share the burden at the back would be a coup.

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