Newcastle’s Ciaran Clark reveals what it’s like to go up against Aleksandar Mitrovic

Ciaran Clark and Chancel Mbemba
Ciaran Clark and Chancel Mbemba

Ciaran Clark is ready to go again with Newcastle United at the Liberty Stadium – after coming through a “tough” battle with Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Clark lined up against Mitrovic in the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Serbia in Dublin on Tuesday night.

We’ve all done the drills that we have done before, so we know what we need to do. We have to hope Rafa rests up well and he will be back soon.

Ciaran Clark

The defender kept Mitrovic off the scoresheet, but the visitors won 1-0 all but qualify for next summer’s finals.

Clark returned to training on Tyneside yesterday ahead of tomorrow’s Premier League game against Swansea City, for which Mitrovic is suspended following his elbow on West Ham United’s Manuel Lanzini before the international break.

Asked what it was like facing Mitrovic, Clark said: “Tough. He was hard working, a good little battle there.

“You have to try to take that fact out of it that you are up against a team-mate and try to play your normal game.

“It’s difficult, because you work with someone every single day and know each other so well, but you have to focus on the game and take that out of your mind. We both did that, and there were no problems between us.”

Benitez could also be absent at the Liberty Stadium.

United’s manager, recovering from an operation to remove an infection, has been advised to rest by his staff.

Clark says it’s been “business as usual” on the training field in the build-up to the game.

“We have just got on with things,” said the 27-year-old, who scored in Newcastle’s 3-0 win over West Ham.

“We’ve all done the drills that we have done before, so we know what we need to do.

“We have to hope Rafa rests up well and he will be back soon.

“We wish him all the best and (hope) he’s back soon.

“It’s business as usual. We’re taking everything as it comes at the moment, getting the training right and make sure we are at it again.

“Now it is a matter of working hard and building up to the game, and hopefully we’ll be ready on game day.”

Asked what impact Benitez’s absence would have if he is unable to travel to Swansea, Clark added: “We don’t know at this stage whether he’ll be there or not.

“Of course he’ll be a miss. We know he would want us to focus on the game and know our jobs. We have to put the right performance in to get the points.”

Clark encountered a similar situation with former club Aston Villa.

“Gerard Houllier was taken ill, and Gary McAllister took over,” said the Hendon-born player.

“It was one of those things. People have other issues and stuff like that. To be honest, I can’t remember whether we won that game.”

Meanwhile, Swansea have been boosted by the arrivals of Renato Sanches and Wilfried Bony last week.

“Every game’s tough now in the league,” said Clark.

“We need to be right on it. They’ve made a couple of signings.

“We know what we need to do. We need to take the confidence from the last game and keep their fans quiet.

“We have worked on it all training-wise. We know what we need to do as players. There’s going to be nothing too different to what don’t already know.”