FLORIAN LEJEUNE faces a battle to be fit for the start of next season after suffering suspected knee ligament damage in Newcastle United’s 1-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace.

Lejeune, who missed the first half of the season after damaging his right knee during pre-season, injured his other knee in the second half of Saturday’s game.

He twisted awkwardly as he attempted to tackle Andros Townsend, and left the field on a stretcher after a lengthy spell of treatment. A couple of hours later, he was spotted leaving St James’ Park on crutches.

He will be sent for a scan this morning, but there are fears he has suffered ligament damage that will rule him out of the final five games of the season. If he has damaged his cruciate ligaments, he could be forced to miss the bulk of Newcastle’s pre-season programme and might not be available for the start of next term.

“We have an important player who was working so hard to be fit, but now he has to start again,” said Rafael Benitez. “He is a very important player for us in that position, playing out from the back, it’s a pity for us.

“He seems bad. It is the other knee, but it seems bad so we will have to wait and see what the doctor says. I was talking with him (Lejeune) after the game, and obviously he was disappointed. Afterwards the doctor said we need to assess him, but it seems bad. He says he felt a click in his knee, and that is bad news normally.”

Townsend said: “He’s just come back from injury so my heart goes out to him.”