BLACKBURN Rovers boss Gary Bowyer insists Rudy Gestede will be fit and firing for the opening game of the campaign against his former club Cardiff City – despite the fact the striker is set to miss another week of pre-season.
Gestede did not travel with the Rovers squad for their warm-weather training camp in Portugal after playing a starring role for Benin in their Africa Cup of Nations second-round first-leg qualifying 1-0 win over Malawi.
The 25-year-old, who finished last season in blistering form, returns to Brockhall today and is expected to feature in Saturday’s friendly at Bradford City.
But straight after the trip to Valley Parade Gestede will fly back out of Britain to meet up with his Benin international team-mates ahead of the second leg in Malawi on August 2.
That comes just six days before Cardiff arrive at Ewood Park to kick off the new Championship campaign.
But Bowyer is confident Gestede will come back ‘flying’.
“In an ideal world we would love to have Rudy with us but his country calls,” said Bowyer.
“The good thing is he will be playing competitive games and doing training over there.
“We are not worried about him missing out on anything and we will also send him away with a programme.
“But don’t get me wrong, the sooner he gets back the better.
“He started pre-season with us, which was important for him because they were the early stages, and I’m sure he’ll come back flying.”
Gestede, a £300,000 arrival from Cardiff in January, will play no part in tonight’s friendly away to Accrington Stanley.
Fellow frontman Chris Brown is also expected to sit out the Store First Stadium encounter despite returning to full training after a knock.
That means there is a chance that transfer-listed forward Leon Best could be included in Bowyer’s squad.
Best did not travel to Portugal last week in case he was subject to a bid from one of the clubs who have shown interest in signing him.
There was fresh speculation yesterday that Sheffield Wednesday were close to an agreement with Rovers over the 27-year-old.
But Bowyer denied that Best, who finished last season on loan at Hillsborough, is on the verge of returning to the Owls.
He said: “I’ve not heard of any contact from Sheffield Wednesday.
“We’ve had one or two enquiries but nothing has actually been backed up.
“He’s still contracted to Blackburn Rovers, he’s trained with the group this morning and he is available for selection.”
Rovers, meanwhile, have no interest in signing Dundee United winger Gary Mackay-Steven.