Benitez: This is what teams think when they are facing Newcastle
By Russell Edge
Rafa Benitez has warned his players to avoid getting complacent as Newcastle look to secure a return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
The Magpies know that victory against Preston on Monday night would mathematically seal their return to the top flight, and will be hoping to do so in front of a sell-out crowd at St James’ Park.
However, boss Benitez has issued a warning to his men, saying that he expects to come up against a Preston side fired up and ready to put an end to any party mood on Tyneside.
The Spanish manager told the Chronicle: “We have to be sure we win against Preston and everything goes well.
“Teams in this division think: ‘Oh Newcastle United – it’s the most important game of the season!’
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“Then they run more than you’d expect them to – they play against us and go faster and run more metres.”
The Magpies have already faced up against the Lancashire side twice this season, earning a 2-1 away victory in the return league fixture, and demolishing the Lilywhites 6-0 when they visited St James’ Park in the League Cup.
Benitez’s side also have a chance of catching Brighton in the fight for the league title, though with just three games remaining for the Toon Army and a seven-point gap, it is very much an outside chance.
However, Benitez insists his focus is solely on securing promotion back to the Premier League and says in his mind, it does not matter whether that is as champions or runners up.
“If we go up I will be really pleased, it doesn’t matter if it is first or second,” he told the Chronicle.
In other Newcastle news, Jamie Carragher took a sly dig at the Magpies ahead of their match against Preston.