'Good for the team' - Benitez coy on return of Newcastle first team stars
By Russell Edge
Newcastle United boss Rafael Benitez has insisted that the return of Aleksandar Mitrovic from suspension will be a welcome boost for his side.
The Serbian striker has been missing from the club’s last three games after receiving a ban for violent conduct from the FA’s disciplinary panel following the club’s 3-0 win over West Ham.
Mitrovic had scored in that game, to add to the goal he netted against Nottingham Forest in the League Cup, leaving him with two goals in as many games.
Having sat out for the Magpies’ 1-0 defeat away at Brighton on Sunday, he is back in contention for the club’s next clash, which comes against Liverpool at St James’ Park.
However, when asked about whether the Serbian would return to the side, Benitez was coy in his response.
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He told the Shields Gazette: “We’ll see. The competition will increase now, and I think that will be good for the team.
“They have to realise that that is the way to have a stronger squad.
“Push, push and make sure they are ready to play.”
Another man who is pushing for a place in the starting XI is Jonjo Shelvey, who is still yet to start a game since his return from suspension after seeing red on the opening day of the season.
He has had to settle for appearances from the substitute’s bench, and was once again introduced in place of Isaac Hayden in their defeat on Saturday.
However, Benitez was unwilling to commit to the idea of him and Mikel Merino forming a midfield partnership, insisting that it all came down to the situation the Magpies found themselves in.
“They did well when they were playing together, but it depends on the game,” said the Spanish boss.
“It depends on the moment during the games. (Yesterday) was a time when we needed to change something, and it was good for us.”
The loss on the south coast meant that Benitez and his side have slipped from fourth, where they started the weekend, to ninth in the Premier League table.
In other Newcastle United news, DeAndre Yedlin has opened up on one of the key moments of the defeat to Brighton.