LONDON - Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles and winger Matt Ritchie were involved in a furious training-ground scrap and had to be separated by team-mates.
An argument between the pair during a practice session spilled over into the dressing room at the club’s North Tyneside base. It is understood Lascelles then physically confronted Ritchie and the pair were dragged apart by other players.
Ritchie, it is said, had taken issue with Lascelles in training towards the end of last week after the skipper voiced his disapproval over manager Rafa Benitez’s decision to play with a five-man defence for last Sunday’s visit by Chelsea.
A source told Sportsmail: "Ritchie was basically saying, 'Just get on with it, even if you don’t like it, it’s the manager’s choice'. They had a row on the pitch but it wasn’t finished there. It flared up again and Lascelles went for Ritchie in the changing room."
Benitez was in a different room at the time of the incident but soon had it out with both players, who shook hands afterwards. It is understood the pair remain good friends and Benitez is happy with the resolution.
But there are clearly some concerns with Lascelles, who was also involved in a training-ground fight with Mo Diame last year during which midfielder Jonjo Shelvey suffered a broken finger when he attempted to calm the bust-up.
As reported at the weekend, Lascelles was uncomfortable with Benitez’s plan to use three centre backs against Chelsea - and said as much. This annoyed some team-mates and was quickly picked up by Benitez. The manager had a frank discussion with Lascelles - who apologised - and Benitez insisted the player then missed the 2-1 defeat by Chelsea after reporting an ankle injury.
Frustrating not to be able to play today due to a slight ankle injury. Great effort from the boys against a top team
Benitez and 24-year-old Lascelles have always had a good relationship and it is said there are no lingering problems. The player will miss Wednesday night's EFL Cup tie at Nottingham Forest but is set to return for Saturday’s trip to Manchester City.
There is, though, concern within the club at the manner in which Lascelles was linked with a £25million switch to West Ham over the summer. There are fears that outside influences could be attempting to engineer a move for a player Newcastle do not want to sell and who remains popular with supporters. The club, Lascelles and Ritchie declined to comment.