Half a dozen to sit out Cardiff clash - Benitez
Written by Rory Mitchinson
Rafa Benitez expects to be without six different players for Newcastle United’s Sky Bet Championship trip to Cardiff City on Friday.
With Dwight Gayle already sidelined and Jesus Gamez struggling, the Magpies’ boss revealed that Vurnon Anita, Grant Hanley, Jamaal Lascelles and Matt Ritchie will all need to rest up as a result of “little problems”.
Anita, Lascelles and Ritchie all completed 90 minutes for United against Preston North End on Monday, with the latter on target in their promotion-clinching win.
Still, Benitez is targeting another three-point haul in the Welsh capital, aware that his side can break the club’s record for away victories in a single season by doing so.
“In terms of injuries, we have some players who were playing with little problems – Lascelles, Ritchie, Hanley, Anita. Also, Gamez has a problem and Gayle is still not available, so with these players, we will try to fix their problems now because we have more time,” he said.
“They will not be in the squad (for Friday’s game). If everything is fine, they will be ready as soon as possible – not for this game, maybe for the next game.
“We will try to win away, because it will be a record in the history of the club. To equal the record is really good, but if you can break the record, even better, so we will try to do it.”
Newcastle will join Chris Hughton’s Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League next term, who currently sit four points clear at the summit with less than a fortnight of the campaign to run.
The Seagulls will clinch the Championship title by winning either of their last two games – but Benitez insists he has not given up on finishing first just yet.
72 hours after his side made sure of their return to the top-flight, the Spaniard also took the time to reflect on the magnitude of their achievement.
“If we can win our games and Brighton make a mistake, we can be champions, and we will try to do it,” he said. “When you have achieved something that you were trying to achieve for so long, sometimes (you can just) relax, but we still have two games – and we will try to do our best.
“What we have achieved has been really, really important for anyone here. As I have said before, in the last five or six years, only one team has been (automatically) promoted straight after relegation, so to do that – with two games to play – means it is a great achievement. These players deserve credit for that. To have all the city behind the team has also been really good, and I am really pleased with that.”
"In terms of injuries, we have some players who were playing with little problems – Lascelles, Ritchie, Hanley, Anita. Also, Gamez has a problem and Gayle is still not available, so with these players, we will try to fix their problems now because we have more time."