Rafa reveals team news ahead of Palace meeting
Written by Luke Vinton
Newcastle United manager Rafa Benítez revealed three players in his squad will be assessed before the Magpies' clash with Crystal Palace at St. James' Park on Saturday (kick-off 3pm BST).
United sit in 14th place on 35 points - one point behind Palace - with both sides in search of an important victory that could take both sides closer to Premier League safety.
Although Fabian Schär returns to Benítez's squad, after serving a two-game ban, the Spaniard commented on Jonjo Shelvey's involvement in the starting eleven after admitting central midfielders Isaac Hayden and Mo Diamé are potential doubts to face the Eagles, along with right-back DeAndre Yedlin.
Benítez said: “Schär is fine – he is available. Apart from (Sean) Longstaff, who is injured, we have two or three issues. Hayden, Diamé and Yedlin have some little problems and we have to check on them before the game.
"If they both don't make it, Jonjo Shelvey has a big chance. Obviously, we will see what happens but he is training well and I think when he played, he gave us something and hopefully he can be available.
“I was talking to him today – he is telling me he is ready and wants to play. We have to decide, depending on him and the other players. But he loves football and wants to play."
After a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal on Monday, Benítez is hoping for his side to get back to winning ways in their hunt for a sixth consecutive league win at St. James' Park as well as venturing closer to the 40-point mark.
United were held to a goalless draw at Selhurst Park in September, but Benítez remains aware of their opponents' attacking capabilities.
He added: “They have won six games away and four at home, so that means they are a very good side when they play away. The reason is simple – they are a well organised, compact team with pace and ability up front and in the wide areas.
"My responsibility is to give the players the message that we have to go and be on the front foot but we also need to be careful because they are really dangerous on the counter-attack. We have to attack and, at the same time, keep an eye on the strikers and wingers that they have who can a difference with the ability they have.
"I said before that 38 points may be enough (to stay up). We have to wait because Cardiff were winning some games before. We will see but the main thing for us is not wasting too much energy on that and concentrating on our own game. If we can get three points, 38 could be enough but 40 is a guarantee for me."
Newcastle have picked up 17 points from their last 10 matches, with Benítez reflecting on the positive form, particularly on home soil, which has guided the Magpies towards touching distance of top-flight survival.
“We are playing with more confidence," Benítez added. "(Miguel) Almirón has come in and given us something different in attack, and with the fans and players together – fighting with that belief and that confidence – you have more chances to get points.
"There is pressure because we are at home but I'm happy with that. We are doing well and if we can keep playing at the same level, I think we will have our chances to win the game.
"Manchester City was a massive game for us. We had to be proud of playing against one of the best teams in the world and to do so well in beating them. Everton was also a test, coming back from 2-0 down and then showing the character is also something we have to use for the next games if possible.
"I reading the stats before that if we concede first, we are not able to win so to do that in the ways we did it (against Man City and Everton), was a big boost for everyone and has given massive confidence to the players."