By Matt Farr
Matt Ritchie is one of four senior stars set to miss out as Benitez prepares to ring the changes to his Newcastle side when they take on Cardiff in the Championship on Friday.
The Newcastle chief, as quoted by Chronicle reporter Chris Waugh on his personal Twitter account, revealed on Thursday that no fewer than four senior stars were set to be rested for the tie due to injury concerns.
Rafa: "Lascelles, Ritchie, Hanley & Anita are not in the squad. They need to rest injuries. We hope to have them for the last one" #nufc
— Chris Waugh (@ChrisDHWaugh) April 27, 2017
Jamaal Lascelles, Ritchie, Grant Hanley and Vurnon Anita will all sit out of the upcoming visit to the Cardiff City Stadium, as Benitez seeks to nurse them back to health ahead of the season finale in a week’s time.
Benitez can afford to make the changes to his squad with automatic promotion to the Premier League already set in stone, but Newcastle can still mount a challenge for the Championship title.
They currently sit four points behind league leaders Brighton with two games remaining, and Newcastle will need to win against Cardiff to stand any chance of finishing ahead of their rivals.
But he is also keeping one eye on his player’s fitness, with the likes of Ritchie and Lascelles having been ever-present for the club this term.
Ritchie, in particular, has been a vital asset to the club following his move from Bournemouth last summer.
The 27-year-old winger has contributed 16 goals and 10 assists this season, including a goal from the penalty spot in the 4-1 win over Preston that sealed the club’s promotion on Monday.
Anita and Lascelles also featured in the victory, while Hanley, who has played a more intermittent role this term, missed out completely.
In other Newcastle team news, Football Insider has revealed three things we can expect when Newcastle take on Cardiff.