Rafa Benitez has been singing the praises of Federico Fernandez ahead of the trip to Bournemouth.

With Fabian Schar suspended and Jamaal Lascelles injured, the Argentinian centre-back is in contention to start at Dean Court. And Benitez is confident that he is ready to return to action.

(Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United)

“He has more chances now. He was our best defender at the start of the season,” Benitez told the club’s official website.

“After that he was injured and the team was doing well, so he had to wait. But he has been training well and hopefully he will be ready.”

The 30-year-old arrived on transfer deadline day in the summer, adding extra cover at the back. Fernandez became a key player early on, adding extra leadership in defence alongside Lascelles.

He settled into life on Tyneside quickly, aiming to avoid back-to-back relegations after dropping into the Championship with Swansea.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

A tough 2019 for Fernandez

However, we’ve barely seen Fernandez in 2019. He’s made just two appearances, and both were in the FA Cup. His last Premier League appearance was away to Watford, where injury forced him off at half time.

Since Florian Lejeune returned against Chelsea, Newcastle have had a settled centre-back trio. This has forced Fernandez to watch from the sidelines, despite being one of our best players earlier in the campaign.

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

Circumstance has handed the defender another opportunity.

Benitez clearly believes in him, and while the two absentees will be a miss, no one should be worried to see Fernandez in the starting lineup.

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