Newcastle United midfielder Christian Atsu is brimming with confidence ahead of the 2017-18 Premier League season which kicks off next month.
The 26-year-old went under the knife in April following a knee injury sustained while playing against Leicester City. He believes he’s now fully fit to fight for a starting role and improve his records in Rafael Benitez's squad.
“I'm feeling more confident by the day and I just want to work hard now and prepare for the start of the season," the former Chelsea winger told The Chroniclelive.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for all of us but we are all looking forward to it. This season, I'm determined to be better than my first two seasons at Newcastle," he said.
“It starts in the friendly games and it goes right up to the Premier League kick-off. This season, there is going to be a lot of competition for first-team places that’s why I am very happy to get surgery out of the way.
“It means I am back and able to stake my claim for a first-team place. I feel I can compete with anybody that’s in the side,” he added.
Atsu has been looking very sharp in Newcastle's pre-season, grabbing the match-winner in the friendly against St Partick’s.
“It felt great to be playing a game again and also getting on the scoresheet - and I’m very happy," he said.
“After surgery, I have been able to get back quickly and be involved in pre-season. I was worried about the possibility of missing pre-season.
“It’s very important for the whole season so I am pleased to be back and mark it with a goal,” he added.
Last season, Atsu made 28 league appearances and scored two goals.