Rafa Benitez boosted by return of key player to his Newcastle squad

Vurnon Anita. Picture by Frank Reid
Vurnon Anita. Picture by Frank Reid

Rafa Benitez has welcomed a key player back into his table-topping Newcastle United squad.

Benitez’s side take on Bristol City at St James’s Park this afternoon.

He (Anita) is in the squad. We will go with 19, but he is in the squad.

Rafa Benitez

The Championship fixture is followed by tough games against promotion rivals Brighton and Hove Albion, Huddersfield Town and Reading. And Benitez boosted by the return of Vurnon Anita from an ankle injury.

Dutch utility man Anita – who suffered ligament damage in last month’s win over Brentford – is back in Benitez’s squad.

Asked about Anita’s readiness to play, Benitez said: “He is in the squad.

“We will go with 19, but he’s in the squad. We will decide what to do with him.

“Everyone is fine apart from (Isaac) Hayden and Dwight (Gayle).

“Rolando Aarons is training with the team and doing a bit with the group. (Massadio) Haidara as well. It’s good news.”

United manager Benitez had been alternating between Anita and DeAndre Yedlin at right-back.

Yedlin has enjoyed a run of games over the past five weeks in the absence of Anita.

“It’s been good to get a consistent run of games,” said the American.

“It’s good to have Vurnon back, because he’s a key player for the team.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle have kept clean sheets in three of their last four games.

And Benitez feels his side, which has scored more goals and conceded fewer times than any team in the division, have got the “balance” right between defence and attack.

“If you see the team, it has some balance,” said Benitez.

“We score goals, we don’t concede many. We create chances, and don’t give the opposition too many.

“We have had some games where we have not played well, but for the most of the season we have been getting this balance right.

“Now we have a lot of clean sheets, which creates confidence, especially for the defence and the goalkeeper.”