Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez has a number of early fitness worries to contend with ahead of his side's trip to Manchester United on 18 November after Jamaal Lascelles and Christian Atsu suffered injuries during his side's 1-0 home defeat by Bournemouth on Saturday (4 November).

Lascelles had to be withdrawn early in the second half against the Cherries after sustaining an ankle problem, while Ghana international Atsu was substituted late on at St James' Park after feeling some discomfort.

The knocks to Lascelles and Atsu compounded the recent loss of influential midfielder Mikel Merino, who has missed Newcastle's last two matches with a back problem.

There are some fears that Merino's injury is rather serious, and Benitez, whose Newcastle side have slipped down the table in recent weeks, does not know if the injuries suffered by the Spaniard, Lascelles and Atsu will force them to miss the clash against United after the international fortnight.

"Jamaal, will have his ankle (assessed), with Atsu, he felt something, but it's too early to tell," Benitez told the Shields Gazette.

On Merino's fitness, Benitez said: "We have to start treatment. It depends how he responds to the treatment."

Newcastle's injury problems are mounting up as the midway point of the season nears, but United have been in the midst of a small injury crisis for a number of weeks. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Marcos Rojo and Michael Carrick have all been sidelined for substantial periods, though Jose Mourinho will be encouraged by Marouane Fellaini's return to fitness - the gangly Belgian played half an hour as United were narrowly beaten by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

United will be looking to put their loss against the Premier League champions behind them after the international break, but Benitez knows the Magpies must start picking up points after winning just one of their last six matches.

The former Liverpool boss is content with his side's start to the new campaign but is all-too-aware that the Geordies need to reach higher climbs if they are to stave off the threat of relegation, with games against United, Chelsea and Arsenal all soon to come.

"We will train, we will have some sessions this week and wait for the players to come back from international duty," Benitez said. "It's still the same, we are improving but we need this time to improve some more."

Jamaal Lascelles
Lascelles is a crucial influence at St James' Park. Getty