Eddie Howe provides update on fit-again Newcastle United pair who haven’t played in 2022

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Eddie Howe has provided an update on forgotten Newcastle United duo Matt Ritchie and Federico Fernandez.

Ritchie, although played in the Magpies’ shock FA Cup exit to Cambridge United, is yet to make a Premier League appearance in 2022 following a knee injury.

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Meanwhile, Fernandez last appeared for United in December - the 1-0 win over Burnley at St James’ Park - after the central defender was sidelined with a calf problem and then a side strain.

The pair are back in training and Howe insists both players have a key role to play between now and the end of the campaign, particularly behind the scenes.

Eddie Howe on Matt Ritchie

On Ritchie, who has been named as a substitute for the last four matches, Howe said: “He had quite a serious knee injury and recently came back and had minimal training time, so he was probably put on the bench before he was ready but due to numbers, that opportunity was given to him.

“Now we’ve gone away and had an intense period of training with him, I think he’s in a much better place physically.

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“He’s a player I trust, admire and really like. He’s got a big part to play on and off the pitch because he is a really big voice in the dressing room.

Eddie Howe on Federico Fernandez

On Fernandez, Howe explained: “He’s very similar to Matt, he’s a big voice, a leader of the group (and a) great character.

“I love Fede, (a) really level-headed guy, very intelligent and I think he knows what the group needs.

“He’s had various injuries since I’ve been here and I wouldn’t say at this moment in time that he’s 100% fit but he’s building up his resilience.

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“He needs more training time. He is someone we can rely on when we need him and never let us down. He’s one of those great characters that every squad needs.

“We’re delighted to have him.”

Neither player is expected to start against Wolverhampton Wanderers tonight, where three points would lift Newcastle 10 points above the relegation zone.

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