Eddie Howe favourite set to return to Newcastle United training next week after injury layoff

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Matt Ritchie has missed the last five Newcastle United games against Leeds United, Everton, Aston Villa, West Ham and Brentford.

Matt Ritchie is set to return to Newcastle United training next week following a six-week injury layoff.

The 32-year-old hasn’t played for the Magpies since the humiliating FA Cup third round defeat to Cambridge United on January 8.

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He was an unused substitute for the 1-1 home draw with Watford a week later before picking up a knee injury ahead of the win at Leeds United.

Matt Ritchie’s ‘strange’ injury

Explaining his “strange” injury last month, Howe said: “It was a strange injury with Matt. He was just striking a ball and felt something in his knee.

“He’s had a period where he had to back right off and have minimal activity but he’s running again in a straight line and he’s stepping up closer to being back full-time with the group.”

It means Ritchie has been forced to watch from the sidelines as his teammates collected 13 points from a possible 15 without him to give their Premier League survival hopes a major boost.

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However, after United take on Brighton and Hove Albion tomorrow, Ritchie is expected to return to the fold ahead of three aways in seven days - starting with Southampton on Thursday.

Back in training next week

Howe, speaking on Friday morning revealed: “Matty is doing really well. He’s had a period where he has been away and come back. We hope he will train maybe next week.

“I think once he trains he’ll be up to speed quite quickly because he’s been able to maintain his fitness.”

Ritchie, who played in five of Howe’s opening seven games as United head coach, previously enjoyed a strong relationship with the 44-year-old at Bournemouth.

Howe also confirmed another late call will be made on Allan Saint-Maximin fitness ahead of Brighton after the Frenchman missed the last two games - West Ham and Brentford - with a calf problem.

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