Rafa Benitez reveals why Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie did not start against Huddersfield

Matt Ritchie
Matt Ritchie
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Rafa Benitez has revealed why he left Matt Ritchie out of his Newcastle United starting XI.

Ritchie came off the bench during Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Huddersfield Town at St James’s Park.

The winger – who missed part of the club’s pre-season campaign with a groin problem – had felt some “stiffness” last week.

And United manager Benitez felt he wasn’t fit enough to start the Championship game.

Asked about his decision not to start Ritchie, Benitez said: “He was stiff during the week and he was not training.

“But we put him on the bench just in case we needed him.”

He was stiff during the week and he was not training. But we put him on the bench just in case we needed him.

Rafa Benitez

Benitez was reluctant to “risk” Ritchie given that he was not 100%, but with Newcastle trailing 1-0 at the break to a Nahki Wells goal, the 26-year-old was thrown on for the second half.

Ritchie, signed from Bournemouth this summer for £10million, livened up United, who levelled through Dwight Gayle.

But Huddersfield substitute Jack Payne claimed all three points for the visitors with an 82nd-minute goal.

“In the end we had to play him,” said Benitez.

“I am happy, because he was good when he came on, but I’m disappointed because that was something we didn’t want to do.

“We didn’t want to take the risk. He seems to be fine.

“But it’s a pity because when you have to play a player when he has not trained during the week. It means something is wrong.”

Ritchie will now be assessed ahead of Wednesday night’s home game against Reading.