Press conference analysis: Rafa Benitez talks Derby, new signings and rotation
Newcastle United have won their last four matches in all competitions and they will be hoping that their impressive form continues after the international break. They are facing a tough trip to Derby County on Saturday evening in front of the Sky cameras and a positive result will put them in a very strong position. They have a tough September ahead of them, with matches against several of their promotion rivals, but Rafa Benitez will know that if they finish this month in the top three, they will have a great platform to push on for promotion.
The Spaniard recognises the unique test offered by all 23 teams in the division and will guard his side against complacency. Their opponents on Saturday have been promotion contenders for the past three or four years and they will be hoping to be in the top six come the end of this season. On the Midlands team, Benitez said:
‘We know Derby have experience in this league. When you have a good team it’s only a question of time before you start performing. Derby are a good team with a good manager and I think they’ll be near the top. I don’t know how high, but they will be near the top.’
Newcastle are the favourites to win the division and the pressure on them is huge, as the club can’t really afford another season outside of the top flight. However, there are a lot of very good teams in the Championship and Benitez’s comments remind supporters of that. Despite their recent good form, his side still lack experience in this league and he recognises that Derby have the advantage in that area.
Since their last match, the Magpies have added three new players to their squad and they could be involved this weekend. When asked about his summer transfer business and whether his newest signings would play this weekend, Benitez responded:
‘We have done good business and I am really pleased. Now we have to do well on the pitch and win. If I have to play some of them, they can play. If they have to wait, they will wait.’
The former Real Madrid manager realises that the club have had an excellent transfer window, both in terms of incomings and outgoings. However, the relegated side now need to move on and get results on the pitch. There will be some players that can come straight into the team and make an immediate impact, while others need time to settle into their new environment. Benitez’s comments reflect this and we shouldn’t expect to see all three new signings in the starting eleven at the iPro Stadium.
Finally, throughout his managerial career, rotation has been synonymous with Rafa Benitez and he can use it to great effect in the Championship. He has a large squad available to him and the games come quickly, which demands rotation. During the opening five matches, he has been unpredictable, even dropping his captain at one point and that makes it difficult for opposition teams to prepare ahead of facing Newcastle.
‘I don’t wake up in the morning and think I have to rotate. It is important to keep competition and keep the players fit.’
The North East club will play seven matches in the next 21 days and rotation will be required to keep the players fresh. Benitez’s comments about rotation suggest he is frustrated by the line of questioning as it should be seen as a necessary part of the game and doesn’t deserve comment. It is clear that the former Real Madrid manager wants to keep competition as high as possible, as it increases the level of performance. Players will play better if they are trying to keep their place in the team and Benitez wants to take advantage of this.
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