Newcastle have completed the last batch of Premier League fixtures. Two wins in a row got them back on track and there was perhaps some frustration that the international break could stall that momentum.
Especially with their closest opponents, top four rivals Manchester United, on a run of just three wins in eight games in the Premier League.
That drop from Eric Hag’s ten side means victory over Newcastle would move them up to third in the table, above the Carabao Cup final winners.
But for the past two weeks, in fact, the pivot to Newcastle could prove a big impact for Champions League football next season.
Straight after the last gasp win at Nottingham Forest, Eddie Howe blasted the players not called up by their country to Dubai for a mixture of relaxation and hot training weather. Callus Wilson described himself and the group as “recharged” after the trip.
However, time also allowed the important figure of this side to crucify more minutes in the legs.
At the start of Alexander Isak’s season at Newcastle, he suffered a ruptured cruciate ligament which kept him out of 16 games until January. The recovery process is long – a cautious approach even now.
He played about 70 minutes in Sweden between the two internationals, with national boss Janne Andersson admitting he is “not 100 per cent match-wise”.
Isak went on to score in the Euro Qualifiers, although it was his cross that forced his own goal against Azerbaijan, in a match where he also saw his shot ruled out.
The hope from the Newcastle side is that the 23-year-old Rusk returns where he needs to be for the final twelve games in a row.
His performances in the past two matches have definitely shown the impact he can have on this team.
After scoring the opener in Wolves’ win, he showed off his technical skills against Forest before scoring his stoppage-time, penalty-winning goal to convert his sixth goal in 10 appearances for the club.
For a team that is famous for its defensive solidity, Isak’s exhibitions were the epitome of bringing a threat to the top end of the pitch. His stats for 90 minutes this season mark him as one of the most dangerous in Europe.
Much needs to be done to get past the Newcastle team, who have managed just three goals in their recent eighty run.
How he also believed in his flexibility, praising his ability before turning his equalizer to the left wing when Allan Saint-Maximin had to be moved upfield.
Dark in the box, quick burst – Isak has many weapons in his arsenal and showed why Newcastle Real Sociedad paid him £63m last summer.
But there is a pressing question of fitness that remains.
“Is he 100 percent ready to play 90 minutes on a consistent basis? Or not.” That was Howe’s assessment before the Wolves game – before saving a point.
“He’s fit to play 90 minutes for other teams, so there’s no question about fitness. He’s very, very fit. He’s got a little bit more to be fit for 90 minutes for us, but that’s all we ask from us. Our players. That’s not easy at all “
In fact, Newcastle are the Premier League side when it comes to sprints. Terrible, violent with and without a ball.
Isak now ranks 35th in the division for sprints per 90 minutes. “He’ll be there. We’ll build him up to that level,” Howe said.
The Newcastle boss has options, with Wilson rarely trying again to rediscover his form ahead of the Qatar Cup.
But the fit and fired up Isak could hold the key to a top four finish.
Against Manchester United on Sunday, we’ll see if his footsteps in Stockholm have moved Sweden closer than they need to propel Newcastle into the top four.
Watch Newcastle vs Man Utd on Sky Sports Premier League from 4pm on Sunday; kick off 4.30pm.