FABIAN SCHAR admits Florian Lejeune’s knee injury is a huge blow to Newcastle United as they prepare for the final five games of the season.

Lejeune was stretchered from the field in the second half of last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace, with Newcastle officials subsequently confirming the French centre-half will not play again this term.

The Magpies have refused to disclose whether he has damaged the cruciate ligaments in his left knee, but there are fears Lejeune could even struggle to make it back to full fitness for the start of next season.

He had been an ever-present since returning from a previous knee injury in mid-January, and with Rafael Benitez having settled on a five-man defensive line-up in recent months, Schar admits he will be a big loss.

“It will obviously be a big blow for him,” said the Swiss international. “As a player, an injury is the worst thing you can have. He just came back from a long time out, and was playing so well after his last injury.

“He is a really important player for us, so we are all really sad to see him out again. We’re sad for him, and for the team. We will be missing a lot.”

Lejeune was in obvious pain as he collapsed to the ground after attempting to tackle Andros Townsend on Saturday, and the sight of such a popular player leaving the pitch on a stretcher appeared to have a negative effect on Newcastle’s performance for the rest of the game.

“It’s really hard to see Flo like this,” said Schar. “I was really sad in the moment when it happened. I don’t think we lost the game because of that, but it was a really bad moment for all of us.

“Nobody wants to see a player in that kind of position. We cannot say we lost the game because of that, but it was a big blow for everyone.”

With Lejeune unavailable, Benitez will have to shuffle his defensive resources when Newcastle travel to an in-form Leicester City tomorrow night.

Paul Dummett is likely to start alongside Schar and Jamaal Lascelles, although Benitez could also turn to Ciaran Clark, whose last appearance came in mid-January.

Last month, it looked as though Schar could be set for a lengthy absence when he sustained a serious head injury whole on international duty with Switzerland, but he returned to domestic action after a two-game suspension last weekend determined to make up for lost time.

“It was hard to miss two games and not be able to help the team,” he said. “But that’s football. Now I am back, and I was happy to be back in the team (against Palace). We lost the game though, so I was really frustrated.”