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Newcastle: Celtic defender linked; Yedlin impressed by this factor; Ritchie wants cup run

The transfer window is fast approaching and it is believed that Newcastle will strengthen once more, despite already climbing to the top of the Championship. The Chronicle have linked them with a move for Celtic’s centre back Jozo Simunovic, who is valued at £4 million. There is other interest in the defender from Premier League Crystal Palace, but Newcastle could compete with them for the Croatian’s signature. He has had a good start to the season and shone in Celtic’s match against Rangers yesterday. Brendan Rodgers won’t be keen to let him go, but Celtic’s power in the transfer market has reduced significantly and they could be forced to let him go.

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It is an interesting story as Newcastle already have four first team centre backs in their squad and there isn’t a great need for another. However, Benitez looks at squad building in a different way to most managers and looks to guard against a potential crisis. Chancel Mbemba will be missing for a month as he is set to play for the DR Congo in the African Cup of Nations, which will reduce Newcastle’s defensive options. Benitez may opt to bring one in to cover for the absence of Mbemba and Simunovic could be the player that is targeted.

Benitez has relied on squad rotation this season and summer signing DeAndre Yedlin has been impressed by the strength in depth at St James’ Park. The American came into the starting eleven on Saturday and impressed in the Magpies’ convincing win over Ipswich Town. It is crucial to have a strong squad in the Championship as the matches come quick and fast. Newcastle have already reached the top of the league and their strong squad makes it possible that they could remain in that position until the end of the season.

“Ayoze played wonderfully. He’s a playmaker and that’s what he showed against Ipswich.

“It is unbelievable how much depth we have in the squad.

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“We feel like we can put anybody on the field and they’ll do the job.”

The strength in the Newcastle squad has intimidated other sides in the division and on Saturday Ipswich never looked confident of getting something from the match. They looked beaten before the first whistle and that could be the case for many teams that come to St James’ Park this season. The Magpies have the opportunity to get to the quarter finals of the EFL Cup during the week and they possess a squad that makes a cup run possible.

Matt Ritchie has been talking about the EFL Cup and he wants to target the competition. Their start in the league means that they can now field strong teams in the cup. Newcastle haven’t had much success in the cup competitions for a number of years, but that looks set to change under Rafa Benitez, who is looking to do well despite being in the Championship.

“All our games are big.

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“Obviously the league is a priority, but we want to go as far as we can in the cup competitions as well, and we’ve got the squad to do that.

“I’m really looking forward to that.”

There is an excitement building around the EFL Cup and Newcastle supporters will be out in force on Tuesday night in an attempt to carry their side to the next round. The other fixtures in the fourth round will mean that a number of the big Premier League sides will be knocked out, which opens the possibility for Newcastle to go deep into the competition. Rafa Benitez will relish the opportunity to go up against some of the best managers in the world and will be looking to make the next round at least.

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