Rafa hoping for more away day joy as important week begins
Written by Rory Mitchinson
Rafa Benitez is hopeful that Newcastle United can take heart from their recent away record as they gear up for arguably the most testing week of their season so far.
A vital eight-day period begins with Tuesday night’s visit to Sky Bet Championship leaders Brighton & Hove Albion, with trips to Huddersfield Town and Reading – currently placed third and fifth respectively – also on the horizon.
Chris Hughton’s Seagulls are a point clear at the top of the table after easing past the Royals on Saturday evening, Newcastle having been held to a surprise draw by struggling Bristol City earlier in the day.
However, United have collected more points on the road than any other side so far this term, with an impressive 11 victories to their name.
And, with the race for the Premier League hotting up, Benitez has challenged his troops to bring up the dozen at the Amex Stadium tomorrow night.
“Our away record means that we can go and play against anyone trying to win. In football, you never know, but we will try to win. It is important to have the belief that we can do it – because we have done it during the whole season,” he said.
“We know that we made some mistakes (against Bristol City), but because the reaction was so good, you have to think about the positives. We have to try and play in the same way that we did in the second half – with the same determination, with the same attacking football, trying to create chances.”
Benitez confirmed that leading goalscorer Dwight Gayle will not be travelling to East Sussex, though the frontman is making progress after being withdrawn just half-an-hour into his return to action against Aston Villa last Monday.
Despite suffering something of a setback on Saturday, the Spaniard insists the message to his players remains the same for tomorrow’s clash – where victory will see United regain their eight-point lead over Huddersfield ahead of their visit to the John Smith’s Stadium.
Benitez also took a moment to pay tribute to counterpart Hughton – who guided Newcastle back to the top-flight following their last relegation in 2009.
“He is doing a great job and he has a very good team – a team who have been in the play-offs three times in the last four years, so they have the experience and the squad to be there,” the Magpies’ current boss said.
“The players know that every game is important, and we still have a lot of games to play. They have all the information, but they all react in one way or another way. My job is to keep sending the right message. We have to keep doing things in the same way – training well, sticking together, helping each other.
“You could see the reaction of our fans (on Saturday), and it is the same situation now – going away with our fans behind the team. We are really pleased (with) that, and the best way to say ‘thank you’ is to give everything on the pitch and try to win.”
"Our away record means that we can go and play against anyone trying to win. It is important to have the belief that we can do it – because we have done it during the whole season."