By Russell Edge
Newcastle United boss Rafael Benitez has said that the Magpies face a fight to secure victory over Brighton on Sunday despite the two sides’ league positions.
The Seagulls are currently hovering just above the relegation zone thanks to goal difference, while the Magpies are flying high in seventh, having sat in fourth prior to the weekend’s fixtures.
However, Benitez insists that the table counts for very little and says that the two sides are going to be closely matched when they go head-to-head on Sunday afternoon.
He told the Daily Mail: “We know each other really well and it will be difficult for both.
“The level of the teams could be similar. We have won three games in a row – they could do the same at any time, hopefully not starting this weekend.
“We think we can win but we won’t go there as favourites. We will try to compete, to win.”
Benitez’s comments may come as a surprise to many as a result of the form both sides are in.
Newcastle are on a three match winning streak after securing victory against Stoke last weekend, while Brighton suffered two successive defeats away to Bournemouth in the Premier League and League Cup respectively.
The two sides are very well acquainted after they were embroiled in a title fight in the Championship last season, with both securing automatic promotion, while Chris Hughton had a spell as manager at St James’ Park.
Newcastle pipped Hughton’s side to the post with a final day victory, with Brighton only able to muster up a draw which handed the Magpies the Championship title.
However, Benitez is adamant that last season will have no bearing on the impact of Sunday’s result, with both sides having made changes to their sides over the summer.
“I think it will be totally different,” said the Spanish manager.
“Obviously, they have a manager with experience also in the Premier League.
“Last year was last year, it was another competition, everything will be different.”
Following their trip to the south coast, Newcastle’s next game will see Benitez go up against his former side Liverpool.
In other Newcastle United news, Benitez has given a definitive update on the return of this first team star.