JAMAAL LASCELLES has been pencilled in for a possible return in Newcastle United’s FA Cup third-round tie at Arsenal next weekend, with the after-effects of his Covid infection finally starting to subside.

Along with Allan Saint-Maximin, who remains some weeks away from returning, Lascelles is one of the two Newcastle players to have been most seriously affected by the recent Covid outbreak that forced the closure of the club’s training ground for ten days.

Lascelles’ physical rehabilitation had to be extremely closely monitored despite him recording a series of negative Covid test results, but Newcastle’s medical staff finally allowed him to start stepping up his training programme at the start of the week.

“It’s become common knowledge that I suffered from Covid,” wrote Lascelles, in his programme column for this week’s home game with Liverpool. “I’m feeling fine now.

“I had flu-like symptoms for two days – a high temperature, going hot and cold and fatigue. After that, I did have a little bit of shortness of breath for a few days, but I’ve been fine since then.

“We have to have different types of tests after having Covid to enable us to get safely back on the pitch; they’ve been doing more tests on me than they have on the other players, and that’s why it’s taken me a bit longer to get back.

“I haven’t really been allowed to do any exercise at all – not until I did all of the tests and they came back fine. All I’ve been able to do is take the dog and the kids out for walks around where I live. And that’s been the case for a lot of weeks.”

Lascelles will not be involved in tomorrow’s game with Leicester City, and given the length of his absence, there is an understandable desire to take things slowly when mapping out a possible return. However, there is a chance he could play some part in next weekend’s cup game at the Emirates.

“Our big two out at the moment are obviously the skipper and Saint-Maximin, and the skipper is making better progress than Allan, so we might see him soon,” confirmed Steve Bruce. “I can’t see him for Leicester, but hopefully for Arsenal, maybe, Jamaal might be in the mix. I certainly can’t see Allan for the foreseeable future though.”

While Lascelles has been unavailable over the Christmas period, Ciaran Clark has slotted in to confirm his enduring quality. As a result, Bruce is keen to tie the 31-year-old down to a new contract that will extend beyond the end of the season.

“He’s a very, very good player,” he said. “I know discussions are ongoing with his agent and I hope in January we can tie Ciaran up because I would like to keep him at the club. I think he deserves that.

Newcastle (probable, 5-4-1): Darlow; Yedlin, Schar, Fernandez, Clark, Lewis; Murphy, Hayden, M Longstaff, Joelinton; Wilson.