Rafael Benitez expects another ‘difficult’ January transfer window

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Rafael Benitez has moved to dampen expectations ahead of the January transfer window by admitting it will be a “difficult” time to improve his squad.

The Magpies have been linked to a string of big money stars with Atlanta United striker Miguel Almiron reportedly top of the club’s wanted list.

Two straight wins have eased the pressure on Benitez ahead of Monday’s Premier League trip to Burnley and he might have to continue relying on his current squad to haul themselves further to safety.

Benitez said: “It’s January so it’s quite difficult – it’s not a question of much (money), it’s a question of how to find the right player.

“It’s quite a difficult window because the top-class players normally are playing in the Champions League and with top teams, so it’s very difficult for them to change.

“We don’t have too many options so we have to keep working hard and if we find the right player then we have to start talking about that.”

Benitez’s plans suffered a setback during the international break when defender Paul Dummett suffered a calf injury playing for Wales against Denmark, ruling him out of the trip to Turf Moor and possibly beyond.

But he is not short of options, especially at the back with the imminent return of Florian Lejeune likely to give him additional strength for the pivotal Christmas period.

Lejeune has been ruled out with a serious knee injury since July but is making faster than expected progress and has begun to take part in some training sessions at the club’s Benton base.

“Lejeune is still not available but he has been doing a full training session with the team so he is getting closer,” added Benitez.

“It is important for any manager to have competition in each position, so when you have a player like him who did so well last season, it means the other players are competing for the place will give everything.”

Benitez has a trio of further injury concerns ahead of the Burnley game, with skipper Jamaal Lascelles (shoulder) and Jonjo Shelvey and Yoshinori Muto (both calf) facing further tests over the weekend.

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