DAN ASHWORTH has admitted that Newcastle United could be without some of their World Cup players for this month’s Carabao Cup clash with Bournemouth and the return to Premier League action against Leicester City.

The Magpies have five players on international duty in Qatar – Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier and Callum Wilson (all England), Bruno Guimaraes (Brazil) and Fabian Schar (Switzerland) – and as things stand, there is a good chance all five will be progressing beyond the group stage to the knockout rounds.

The point at which their tournament will end remains unknown, with the uncertainty creating a headache for head coach Eddie Howe, who is set to take the rest of his first-team squad to Saudi Arabia for a warm-weather training camp next week.

Newcastle return to action when they host Bournemouth in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, December 21, and with the World Cup final not taking place until the previous Sunday (December 18), there is an acceptance that at least some of the club’s international contingent might not be available to face the Cherries.

With the Premier League programme set to resume when Newcastle travel to the King Power Stadium to face Leicester City on Boxing Day, there is also a chance the Magpies could still be without some of their key players when they line up to face the Foxes if they have been involved in the latter stages in Qatar.

“What’s complicated is that some of the players will be at the World Cup, and you don’t know their return date,” said Ashworth, who is Newcastle’s sporting director. “If they get to the final, the return date is a week before the Leicester game. If those players get knocked out in the group stages, the return date is week three of our break. You could have players dropping in at that stage.

“Some of them might have played in three of their games, some of them might not have played a minute of the World Cup but were part of the squad. They’re coming back in different conditions.

“Whichever nations get to the final, then if we have players playing for that nation, I certainly think it’s unlikely they’re going to be available for the cup game. It’s a unique season, but it’s been part of the challenge.”

Ashworth was involved in the discussions that will result in Newcastle’s first-team squad making their second trip to Saudi Arabia next week. Howe and his players will take part in some warm-weather training sessions and fulfil a number of commercial obligations as well as lining up against Al-Hilal in a friendly a week on Thursday.

They will then return to Tyneside to complete their preparations for the resumption of the domestic programme, having had some time off in the immediate aftermath of the win over Chelsea that preceded the World Cup shutdown.

“We’ve front-loaded the seasons a little bit, so it’s been quite an intensive season for all Premier League clubs with more games (before the World Cup break) than there would have been last year,” said Ashworth. “So, it was important to give the players a bit of a break.

“Then, it’s back into almost a mini pre-season, if you like. It’s back into reconditioning, some games, and getting the players ready. It’s not too dissimilar to pre-season really.”