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Rafa ready for Tottenham test

Written by Tom Easterby

Rafa Benítez says he and his team will “give everything” as they return to the Premier League this weekend.

Newcastle United face Tottenham Hotspur at St. James’ Park on Sunday (1.30pm kick-off) in what will be their first game back in the top flight, following last term’s Championship title-winning campaign.

And Benítez says he and his side will be giving their all in their first year back in the big time, as the season gets under way with the visit of Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs to Tyneside.

“I’m really pleased (to be back in the Premier League). When I decided to stay, it was because I wanted to go back to the Premier League with this massive club. We are here, so we’ll try to stay,” he said.

“We have an important game on Sunday. The first objective is to get three points against Tottenham, and after that every week see where we are.

“It would be easy for me to say to the fans ‘I want to do this, I want to win this’ but now, at the moment, we have to make sure that we have a competitive team that will be improving. Still the transfer window is open, and I think that we can bring maybe some players in, and we have to move some players out.

“Then after that, be sure that the team is competitive, be sure that the players understand the responsibilities that we have and try to do our best every game, and see if we can be in the middle of the table, the top of the table or avoid relegation, but I don’t have any specific target.”

He added: “We have to be sure that every single game, the players will give everything, and myself and my staff will do the same.”

Spurs arrive at St. James’ Park having finished runners-up to champions Chelsea last season, and Benítez is aware that his team will be given a stern test on Sunday.

“I think that Pochettino is a great manager – that is obvious – and they have the same team that was finishing second and third in the last two seasons, so they have a very good team,” he said. “Everybody was praising the talent of this squad and the understanding between players and their young players too, and when you have young players with a good understanding and another year of experience, they have to be better.

“They have the same manager, the same staff, the same players and more experience in the Premier League, so they will be even more dangerous.”

United will be roared on by a sell-out crowd at St. James’ this weekend – something Benítez values greatly – and the Spaniard wants his team to rise to the challenge of performing at the top level.

“This city deserves a team in the Premier League. The fans are behind the team, the city is behind the team, and that’s massive,” he said.

“Every single game we had 52,000 fans last year, and the away support was amazing, so we have everything. Now we have to be sure that we can perform.”

"This city deserves a team in the Premier League. The fans are behind the team, the city is behind the team, and that’s massive."

Rafa Benítez

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