MIGUEL ALMIRON is set to make an early return from international duty in South America, ensuring he should be available for Newcastle United’s lunchtime meeting with Chelsea next Saturday.

Almiron performed impressively on Thursday evening as Paraguay claimed a 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw in Argentina.

The Magpies forward won the first-half penalty that enabled Angel Romero to fire Paraguay into the lead in Buenos Aires, and continued to catch the eye despite Argentina claiming an equaliser through Nicolas Gonzalez.

Almiron outshone Lionel Messi and was named Man of the Match as Paraguay extended their unbeaten start to the South American qualifying campaign, but his late booking for dissent has significant consequences for both himself and Newcastle.

The yellow card means he is suspended for Paraguay’s home game with Bolivia on Tuesday evening, and instead of remaining with the rest of his international team-mates, he is expected to return to England over the weekend.

Had he been involved on Tuesday night, he would not have been back in the North-East until Thursday, a scenario that would have made Steve Bruce reluctant to select him for Saturday’s lunch-time kick-off.

However, assuming he is back on the training ground at the start of next week, he will be one of the first names on Bruce’s team sheet as the Newcastle boss attempts to engineer a victory against a Chelsea side that have begun to hit top form in recent weeks.

Bruce is expected to be without Callum Wilson next weekend, with the striker having suffered a hamstring injury in the 2-0 defeat at Southampton, so Almiron’s anticipated availability will be a major boost.

Newcastle’s players suffered mixed fortunes in Thursday’s other internationals.

A sidelined Ryan Fraser watched his Scotland team-mates secure a place at next summer’s European Championships, but Jamal Lewis was part of the Northern Ireland side that suffered play-off final heartbreak at the hands of Slovakia.

Ireland’s Jeff Hendrick started his nation’s 3-0 defeat to England at Wembley, and will remain in the Irish camp for the Nations League double-header against Wales and Bulgaria despite his team-mate, Alan Browne, having subsequently tested positive for coronavirus after also playing in the game.