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Rafa Benitez reveals behind-the-scenes impact of Newcastle striker Islam Slimani

Islam Slimani of Leicester City challenges Christopher Schindler of Huddersfield Town during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Huddersfield Town at The King Power Stadium...

The Algerian has only made one substitute appearance since joining the Toon on loan from Leicester in January.

Nigeria's William Ekong (L) vies for the ball with Algeria's Islam Slimani during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group B qualifying football match between Algeria and Nigeria at the Chahid...

Islam Slimani came off the bench for his first competitive action in three months and was mercifully unscathed in Newcastle's vital 1-0 win over Huddersfield last Saturday.

But while being fully fit, the 29-year-old forward cannot play this weekend against parent club Leicester at the King Power due to the terms of his loan.

It has been a frustrating time for Slimani - but while he has barely featured, Toon boss Benitez has revealed how vital his presence is in the dressing room.

Islam Slimani of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Huddersfield Town at The King Power Stadium on January...

He told the Chronicle: "Just signing him improved the competition between the strikers. So that was positive.

"Obviously, he has not been available but he’s still be around the place and everybody has been thinking: ‘Oh we have to do better’.

"To have another player and another characteristic to add to you attack means that you can be a little bit stronger. It means the others will always push harder."

Rafa Benitez, Manager of Newcastle United gestures during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town at St. James Park on March 31, 2018 in Newcastle upon Tyne,...

After Ayoze Perez's winner against the Terriers, skipper Jamaal Lascelles praised Slimani's impact, saying: "He came on, he was handful and because of his presence in the box, it makes some room for Ayoze’s goal".

And Slimani's arrival has seemingly done the trick, with Newcastle having recorded three wins, two draws and just one defeat in the past couple of months.

It means they need just five more points from their last seven matches in order to be certain of avoiding the drop this season, having been promoted from the Championship last summer.

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