Rafa hopeful Magpies can get 'back to basics'
Written by Rory Mitchinson
Rafa Benítez is hopeful that Newcastle United can re-discover their defensive solidity when they travel to reigning Premier League champions Chelsea tomorrow.
After conceding just ten goals in their first 11 outings this season, the Magpies have now shipped nine in their last three, including two against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on Tuesday night.
Antonio Conte’s Blues are already some way off the pace in this season’s title race, but United have only won once at Stamford Bridge since the Premier League began.
And, if they are to stand any chance of doubling that tally tomorrow, Benítez acknowledges that his side will have to defend from the very front.
“I think we have to do that in every game,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, we were quite solid in defence. In the last game we conceded some goals, but when you go back to basics and work very compact, very narrow and very hard as a team it is more difficult for other teams to break you down, so we have to do that.
“You can see that the team, at the beginning, we were defending as a unit and the understanding between the players was quite good, and it was not easy for anyone to create chances against us. We had a couple of injuries and we had to change players, and when you change things you expect it could be easier, but if you see it is not like this, the only way is to work harder and better.”
Benítez spent six months in charge at Chelsea during the 2012/13 campaign, delivering a top-three finish in the Premier League and the Blues’ maiden Europa League title.
He spoke fondly about his time at Stamford Bridge, as he prepares to return to the West London club for the first time since his departure to Napoli.
“Hopefully it’ll be a great atmosphere, a great game and we can get three points,” he said. “I think the fans will be fine. The normal fans, who you could find in the streets, they were OK. Then, when you go in a game, the rivalry between Liverpool and Chelsea was at this time what changed things and the perception of some people, but I think the majority of the fans realised that I was doing a professional job. We were finishing third – like (Roman) Abramovich wanted to qualify straight for the Champions League – and we won the Europa League in the meantime, so I think the fans will be happy with that.
“I have a lot of friends there, the staff were really good and the players were fine. I think it was quite positive. The positive is that (the fans) realise we were doing our job and we did it until the end. We achieved what they wanted and even more.”
"You can see that the team, at the beginning, we were defending as a unit and the understanding between the players was quite good, and it was not easy for anyone to create chances against us."