After a slow start, Newcastle United have won their last three matches in all competitions. Although they haven’t been remarkable, they are getting the job done and a winning mentality is beginning to build at the club. They have a manager who has succeeded at the highest level and he will know how to manage the atmosphere within the club. It is difficult to strike the balance between being confident and respecting the opposition. Rafa Benitez knows it won’t be easy, but he will also understand the consequences for both the club and his own reputation if he doesn’t manage to get Newcastle back into the top flight.
This weekend, the television cameras will be at St James’ Park for the first time this season and they need to give a good performance against a strong Brighton side. Rafa Benitez has given his pre-match press conference and when asked about the opposition on Saturday, he had some kind words to say about the side from Sussex. He said ‘They have experience and a manager who knows the city, the club, the fans and the Championship. It will be tough but can we beat them? Yes.’
Benitez is a respectful manager and he is meticulous in his planning for matches. He will know everything there is to know about Brighton and it is the first time that his side will be coming up against another pre-season promotion contender. The comments about Chris Hughton are interesting as he has already completed the task that Benitez is attempting this season. Newcastle supporters like Hughton a lot and his prior knowledge of the club could play a part this weekend. He will know precisely how to unsettle the Geordie faithful and Benitez is correct to be wary of his possible influence.
Newcastle will be missing their two best strikers this weekend, after the FA ruled Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic out of the game, due to the new concussion ruling. They both suffered head injuries in the EFL Cup and they can’t play a part this weekend as a result. The FA are taking extra precaution with head injuries and it is frustrating that Newcastle will be missing two players due to the change in rules. On the new ruling, Benitez commented ‘After the game they were fine but the English rules say they cannot play. They want to, but they can’t’.
It is frustrating for the Newcastle manager that he is missing both his strikers, despite the fact that they want to play. This appears to be a veiled criticism of the new ruling as he believes both are fine to play, despite being subbed off on Tuesday night. Head injuries are delicate and each case needs to be treated on its merits. A blanket ruling may prevent any further damage, but it can also hinder a side. If Newcastle lose this weekend, it will be interesting to see if Benitez has anything further to say on the ruling.
There is a lot of business still to be done at the club, with Newcastle trying to get rid of some of the top earners and adding players in key positions. Benitez wants to have two players for every position and the squad building has been good at the club so far. On the transfer window itself, he made some interesting comments ‘It’s not easy. I think Arsene Wenger was saying today that this is a very difficult transfer window and it’s true, because of the prices. I think that we are trying very hard and have a lot of names and we have been monitoring players, but now we are trying to do business.’
The increased revenue brought in by the Premier League clubs is clearly having an effect on the transfer window as a whole and Newcastle are suffering from that in the Championship. They realise the need to bring in players, but other clubs are increasing asking prices for English clubs. As a relegated club, Newcastle don’t have the finances to compete and are suffering as a result. Reading between the lines, it is clear that Newcastle haven’t been able to do the business they have wanted to do and now they are desperately sourcing other targets late into the window.
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