Speaking during his pre-Manchester City press conference on Friday afternoon, Alan Pardew confirmed that the attacking trio of Bakary Sako, Marouane Chamakh and Connor Wickham had continued their return to full fitness, but were lacking match sharpness.
Chamakh has been on a long road to recovery in recent weeks, having missed all of pre-season and much of the opening weeks, has continued to train on his quest for sharpness, whilst Sako has made two appearances since returning from a long injury lay-off and Wickham featured in the defeat to Aston Villa on Tuesday.
Pardew was pleased to announce that all three had continued to improve fitness-wise, but they were lacking match time in the build up to the trip to Manchester City on Saturday.
"Connor has had some more work, so he's a bit closer [to full fitness]," he said. "And that's where we are really today.
"It's match fitness really, that's the problem. We can do loads and loads of work at the training ground, but they need to play. We're trying to get their minutes up, so that will be the key."
The manager also confirmed that Dwight Gayle was back in training, but would not be in contention for a place in his squad at the Etihad, whilst Yannick Bolasie was still "three or four weeks away."
"Gayle has trained this week and will probably be involved for next week's game - hopefully!" He said. " So that's a welcome boost."
Watch Alan Pardew's full pre-match press conference for free HERE